The Queen of Kentucky has so many things going for it. First is the cover, which is one of my favorites I've seen come in the mail. It's not that often we see covers in yellow- it jumps out at you. The second thing is the fun trailer and third is the author. I admire authors who take time our of their busy schedules to tweet you and thank you for reading their book. The setting is the deep south which wide open spaces, dusty dirt roads,a pond and acres and acres of tobacco. I became immediately immersed in the rural roots of Ricki Jo Winstead and her best friend Luke. It's the summer before Ricki Jo's freshman year, her first year in high school. She's determined to reinvent herself, ditch the two names for a sassier version- Ericka. Fortune falls on her side when the four most popular girls end up in her homeroom and the school's stud muffin sits next to her in Spanish. Wolf looks like he just stepped out of an Abercrombie ad and smells like it too. He's the guy everyone is vying for, the top of Ericka's wish list. Get some new clothes, make the cheer leading squad, get asked to homecoming and go through puberty then Ricky Jo might just pull off the new and improved Ericka.
A coming of age tale of a 14 year old girl, this book brought back so many memories of ninth grade year (we were still in junior high). As Ericka moves up the social chain she begins to shed some of her most important friends and values. She also gets repeatedly made fun of and mistreated by her "friends." It was painful for me to read. She has fabulous parents, a religious upbringing and the perfect boy next door but she's willing to give it all up for a chance at popularity. Soon a middle grade lifestyle turns much more YA- sneaking out, lots of talk about sex, streaking, drinking, cheating on school work and belittling her once closest friend. While I can sympathize with the fact that Ericka is young and has a mission, I would have liked to have seen more development of character as the book progresses. Time and time again she is mistreated by her love interest and group of new friends. Instead of standing up for herself or rebuilding those whose names she has defamed ...in her upward climb, she takes it all in stride. The ending was just what I wanted to see, but too little too late for me to sympathize fully with the the main character.
Alecia Whitaker is a very talented writer. You can tell she weaves her knowledge and love for the South into her story. Her characters were well fleshed out and vivid. I like that she handles the very hard issue of alcoholism of a parent and domestic violence as it influences the children in the home. I also really liked her references to reading the bible and the importance of sticking to your roots. I could have lived in the county with Ricky Jo before she became Ericka and Luke forever. He is everything you'd want and more. I savored the innocence and closeness of their friendship. Thanks so much to Poppy for a chance to read Queen of Kentucky.