I’m a sucker for anything that deals with life in religious cults, whether the account be fictional or real. So, when I found this book in my partner’s bookshelves, I knew it was only a matter of time before I devoured it!
In some ways, I Am Not Esther satisfied my expectations. It is impossible not to sympathise with Kirby, so infuriating is the situation that she’s placed in. The demands that are made of her by her uncle would seem unfair to most readers and the lack of fun and expressions of love in the family’s day-to-day life makes one really feel for Kirby’s young cousins.
Beale’s characters are generally well-drawn, with Kirby, Daniel and little Magdalene being the stand-outs. Daniel’s struggle is handled particularly well, with his earlier actions appropriately foreshadowing the path he ends up choosing to take. While the adults are difficult to like, they are not demonised or sensationalised at all. Instead, they are painted as (very) flawed humans whose decisions are not always to be lauded.
My difficulty with I Am Not Esther was with its conclusion. It seemed too easy, but yet stopped short of a complete happy ending. I would have been happy with a realistic (unhappy) finish, or with a happily-ever-after for all of those concerned, but the in-between of this book left me feeling a little uneasy.
Despite what I considered an unsatisfying ending, I Am Not Esther is an entertaining read that is appropriately pitched at a teenage audience.