Summary: This year, Essie Green’s life is going to be different. She’s made the cheerleading squad and caught the eye of the captain of the football team. However, she didn't expect her estranged cousin to join the football team. Micah is instantly branded a freak for praying during games, and Essie doesn’t want anything to do with him. As the football team’s teasing of Micah shifts into hazing, Essie is forced to make a choice between the boy she might love and the cousin she barely knows. -- Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
QUEEN OF SECRETS by Jenny Meyerhoff isn't your typical young adult book. At first glance, it might appear that way because the cover shows a teenage girl in a cheerleader uniform and the title does include the word "secrets." However this book, while being very entertaining, is also one that delves into some very serious issues. I really, really enjoyed it!
What I found so interesting about QUEEN OF HEARTS is that the book is actually a modern-day retelling of the Queen Esther story in the bible. I'm embarrassed to say that prior to reading this novel, I wasn't really familiar with many of the specifics of the Esther story (besides knowing that she was one of the strongest women in the bible); however, because of this book, I decided to learn a little bit more about her. I was very curious to see how Essie's story in the QUEEN OF SECRETS related to Queen Esther's story in the bible; and I have to say that I loved how Ms. Meyerhoff incorporated many of the themes that occurred in Esther's story into Essie's modern life. Knowing all of the ties really brought my enjoyment and appreciation of this book to the next level.
Even if you aren't familiar with Queen Esther's story (or don't really care to learn more about Queen Esther), this novel is still a wonderful story for young adults. Essie is a very sweet, but she is also complex teenager who has her fair share of adolescent worries. Her insecurities, plus her desire to fit in, cause her to be dishonest with her friends as well as herself. Throughout the course of the story, Essie gets her priorities straight (which isn't always easy to do in today's society), and in the process becomes a very strong and independent young woman.
I think young girls are really going to relate to Essie. She is definitely torn between wanting to be popular while also staying true to herself and her family. Essie is also experiencing many of problems that today's girls face such as peer pressure (and by that I mean parties, drinking and boys), making good grades, learning to drive, maintaining friendships, tension between family members, and wanting her independence. However, Essie is also starting to realize that she has never had much religion in her life. While she is in the process of figuring out many things about herself, she also starts to wonder whether she has a need for the Jewish faith in her life.
As a mother, I loved the messages in this story; and I think it would make a fantastic pick for a mother-daughter book club. There are so many valuable lessons and wonderful themes in this book such as being true to yourself, honesty, faith, trust, making the right choices, standing up to others, and friendship. Essie isn't always perfect and things do get rough for her along the way, but because of the love and support of her family, she eventually makes the right decisions. I think this novel provides moms and daughters the opportunity to discuss many of the sensitive issues that today's teenagers face.
Thanks to Blue Slip Media for allowing me to participate in the book tour for the QUEEN OF SECRETS. The next stop on the tour is In Bed with Books.
Make sure you also check out my very interesting Q&A with Ms. Meyerhoff!