I Am Not Esther (I Am Not Esther #1) by Fleur Beale
Publisher: Random House New Zealand
Goodreads Summary: A classic bestseller that's been in print for over 20 years, this gripping YA thriller follows a teenage girl caught in a religious cult.
Imagine that your mother tells you she's going away. She is going to leave you with relatives you've never heard of - and they are members of a strict religious cult. Your name is changed, and you are forced to follow the severe set of social standards set by the cult. There is no television, no radio, no newspaper. No mirrors. You must wear long, modest clothes. You don't know where your mother is, and you are beginning to question your own identity.
I Am Not Esther is a gripping psychological thriller written by New Zeaand Post Children's Book Awards-winning children's writer Fleur Beale. In Esther she creates an enthralling and utterly compelling portrait of a teenager going through her worst nightmare.
Rating: 4 Stars
Review: Kirby Greenland lives with her mum. They're close, but her mother refuses to talk about the family she ran away from at the age of sixteen. When her mother has to go away, Kirby is left in the care of her Uncle Caleb, who she's never even heard of. But their family is extremely religious, and Kirby must become one of them is she wants to see her mother again.
This book is certainly not what I expected. I just threw myself into reading it and received many surprises in return. I admire Kirby for her strength and willpower, she's a great character with a strong personality. My favourite character is Daniel, hands down. he's quiet and not outwardly rebellious but he's so passionate and fights when thrust into a corner (yeah, I definitely love him).
I absolutely adore this book, but there are still things which could've been improved. I found it hard to tell how much time passed, there were a few places where it just randomly said that x amount of time had passed. It isn't very consistent throughout, and this is one of the main things I disliked about the book.
I read some reviews of this book, and I want to address an issue one reviewer had with the book. She thinks a lot of Kirby's actions aren't explained well and therefore struggles to understand Kirby in this regard. For me, I completely understand Kirby's actions; they're exactly what I would do in the situation, for I'm quite anti-religion. But I like how there is a large spread of characters all with their own opinions.
Damaris intrigues me, for she loves her religion but is still wistful about her love life. I'm looking forward to seeing more of her, while I don't agree with her opinion I respect it. Her and Gideon are going to be interesting in the next book. So I get it, Kirby and Daniel are cousins and everything, but I ship them so much?! I mean, even if they don't get together, it's fine as long as Daniel doesn't get a girlfriend (unless I approve!).
I Am Not Esther is a discussion about the rights and wrongs of religion. While I in no way agree with Uncle Caleb, he is not evil. He believes strongly in his faith which goes against what some believe. For me, I think it's important that I've read this novel because it talks about so many topics I'm not comfortable talking to people about. I definitely recommend this book, it's worth a try if you can keep an open mind.
Purchase Location: Borrowed From School Library For English Class
Buy the book: Book Depository
Recommended for: Fans of strange cults and teenage development in books.