Essie is in high school, a cheerleader, and turning sixteen soon. She has a huge crush on football player Austin. She finally feels like she's more attractive and curvy and hopes to capture his attention. Meanwhile, her cousin Micah and his family move back to town. She hasn't seen them for ages, since she was a little girl, shortly after her parents died in a car crash. Micah's family are very observant Jews and Micah sometimes acts in ways that draw attention to how different he is and he is mocked by their classmates. Essie is torn..she loves her cousin, but she wishes he would be more normal.
I really liked Queen of Secrets a lot. Despite the fact that it is centered around the sort of typical high school ideas...football and cheerleading, Meyerhoff brings a really fresh spin to this story by basing it on the Book of Esther in the Bible. For anyone unfamiliar, Esther is about a young woman who saves her people by catching the eye of the king and speaking to him on behalf of her people.
One of the things I really appreciated about the book is that it depicts a faithful and devout teenager who is essentially persecuted for his beliefs. His classmates not only make fun of him, but they go farther...which is something I don't want to say too much about for fear of spoiling it. What I also liked is how Essie dealt with it. Not because I think she dealt with it well...she got a bit on my nerves, but because I think it was realistic. She would often suggest to Micah that he do things differently to avoid getting teased. I think this is a common response when people are ridiculed for their beliefs...I think people believe things like belief and faith are behaviors that can be altered, but to do so is asking someone to live against their conscience and many times the deepest part of their identity. So it was nice to read about this in a book, especially at a time of life when it all feels so much bigger.
But this book is about more than that. It's heavily about peer pressure, about family, and about growing into one's own skin. Essie faces many decisions and doesn't always make the right choice, but she definitely grows throughout the book. It was fun to see the ways Meyerhoff wove bits of the Esther story into this one, but this book fully stands on its own as a story. I really enjoyed reading it.
I interviewed Jenny Meyerhoff yesterday.
Source of Book: Received from publicist for review
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Review: Queen of Secrets by Jenny Meyerhoff
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