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.Review:
Going into Queen of Secrets, I wasn't too sure what to expect, since it seemed like this novel was getting one of two things from readers. Those two things? Love or hate. Thankfully, while I did think Queen of Secrets was a bit too much of a clichéd, predictable book, it was also one I really did enjoy excluding the previous factor.
Self-discovery. It's evident in almost all novels, and in Queen of Secrets it was no different, since the main purpose of this book is for Essie to find her niche in life; where she belongs, how much she should pratice religion, and with whom she should be with. In all, leaving this to be one book filled with lots of drama from Essie's choices and questions about whether or not she is making the right ones.
It took me a while to actually like Essie, since for most of the book she was a pompous jerk to not only her friends but to her family as well. Though, after a while, I began to get a better appreciation of her, I guess you would say, because I decided that everyone is allowed to make mistakes, especially if they learn from them. Which she did.
One of my favorite parts was her romance with Austin King, jock extraordinaire, since it was a cute and fun addition. And I have to admit he was a bit swoon-worthy. Also, it was interesting to see how Essie's Jewish roots played into Queen of Secrets, because religon is something I don't see too much of in YA.
While plot events tended to end predictably, they also provided for Queen of Secrets to run in a fast paced way, leaving me wanting to know what exactly was going to happen next. Some questions included: Was Austin all he seemed to be? Would Essie ever stand up to the popular group and go back to her real friends? Were Micah and Sara ever going to be together? All would be revealed in the the next pages, ones that most would be eager to read.
Lastly, Jenny's writing was a bit clunky in the beginning, but after the first few chapters it appeared to even out, leaving the rest of the novel to move quite swiftly.
Overall, while Queen of Secrets doesn't necessary bring anything new to the table besides the Jewish aspects, it still makes for the perfect light/somewhat serious summertime read, something that I'm sure many of you are looking for given the current season.
Queen of Secrets is now out!
Source: Publicity firm. Thanks Barbara at Blue Slip Media!
Quck Qs and As with Jenny:
In your opinion what are the top three reasons teens or even adults should consider picking up Queen of Secrets next time they see it in stores or online?
It’s about falling in love…who doesn’t like falling in love?
It’s about the place of religion in people’s lives, not about religion itself, so I think whoever you are, whatever your thoughts on religion, there’s something in the book for you to think about.
It’s about family dynamics, how are we bound or not bound to those we are related to. Again, everyone’s related to someone.
Queen of Secrets is told from the viewpoint of Essie, so can you tell us a little bit about her. Also, if you could offer her any advice what would you say?
In my mind, Essie is the quintessential naïf. She’s been raised by grandparents who wanted her to be their “little girl” forever and she’s only just beginning to try to break away from this as the novel begins. Just like a really little kid she’s unintentionally self-centered; she never grew out of that phase. She thinks that everyone wants what she wants and wants her happiness first. She also wants other people to deal with the hard stuff in life for her. I actually think she has a lot of characters giving her great advice throughout the novel, so I’m not sure I would say anything different from what they said. Unfortunately, Essie just can’t hear their advice until she matures a bit, which hopefully she does by the end of the book.
In Queen of Secrets Essie’s a cheerleader and dancer, so were these characteristics inspired by your own life?
Unfortunately, no, I was a bit too self-conscious in my teens to ever have participated in those sports. I chose those deliberately because of the parallels I was making to another story…which I discuss in the next answer. :)
QUEEN OF SECRETS is a modern retelling of the biblical story The Book of Esther so a lot of things in the book come from the fact that I’m trying to make parallels with that story. In the bible story, Esther is taken from her home and drafted into the king’s harem. Eventually she marries the king but problems ensue when the king’s right hand man develops an intense hatred of her guardian (either her uncle or cousin, I’ve seen both suggested.) This hatred develops into the persecution of all Jewish people since Esther and her uncle are Jewish (although Esther has hidden that fact from the king.) It’s up to Esther to reveal the truth about her religion and her uncle and stop the persecution. She does so knowing she could lose her life.
I really tried to keep as many of the elements, Jewish heritage included, in the story as possible while still giving it a modern twist and writing a story that could stand on its own. Although I’m now seeing a lot of people complain that the plot is cliché, I did choose to make Essie a cheerleader and Austin a football player as a nod to the iconic status these roles have had in modern American teenage life. (I suppose that’s the thing that makes them cliché.) But to me, that captain of the football team, good-looking guy is often the king of his world, and although I absolutely respect cheerleading as a serious sport, it also has overtones of a harem…beautiful girls dancing in revealing outfits for the pleasure of male players and spectators.
What was your favorite part of writing Queen of Secrets?
Describing the growing relationship between Essie and Austin, definitely!
Did Queen of Secrets change in any big ways from first draft to what we see in stores today?
Oh, yes, huge ways. Harrison’s actions used to be way, way more over the top and I had to tone them down to be more believable.
If Queen of Secrets had a theme song what would it be?
I don’t know if I could come up with just one song, but the song I listened to to get in the mood for the Essie and Austin scenes was Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Richer and when I was working on the scenes where Essie was so conflicted about what the right course of action was I used Torn by Natalie Imbruglia. I had a much longer playlist too, but those were the main ones.
How does it feel to know that the book you’ve worked so hard on is now in stores?
It feels exhilarating! And terrifying. Mostly I try not to think about it and just focus on writing the next book.
What were you like as a teenager? Were you similar to Essie in any ways?
Yes, I think I was pretty naïve and probably a bit self-centered (more than I’d care to admit.) I think looking back, I just have a lot of compassion for girls like that. Who are good people. Who want to be good people. Who are just a little slow to realize sometimes what that really means in terms of actions and behaviors.
Quick! Name three random things about you.
I love to plan kids’ birthday parties.
I’m learning how to play golf.
I prefer bare feet to shoes.
What’s up next for you book wise?
A middle-grade novel about a fifth-grade boy who wants to be a stand-up comedian. Doesn’t have a title yet. I kind of stink at titles. For all of my books so far, coming up with a title has been one of the hardest parts.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Just that it’s been lovely stopping by your blog. Thanks so much for having me.
Thanks, Jenny! I'm looking forward to reading more by you.
Also, be sure to check out Jenny's next stop on the blog tour over at Carrie's YA Bookshelf!