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The Queen of Kentucky

The Queen of Kentucky is a YA contemporary novel by Alecia Whitaker.

Ricki Jo Winstead is entering her freshman year of high school and she’s ready to make some big changes.

First to go will be her farm girl name. It’s now the more sophisticated sounding Ericka.

Next, she’s focusing on using all the tips from Seventeen magazine to do an overhaul on her look. Nicer, newer clothes and hip hairstyles.

Especially if she doesn’t want to keep looking like a young boy – since puberty has (sadly) yet to hit.

Finally, Ricki Jo is determined to get herself involved with the “right” friends. This puts her in a good position to flirt with the resident freshman bad boy and start her high school life off right.

But along the way, will she overlook her lifelong best friend Luke?

Or maybe lose the parts of her she never really meant to change?

Ricki Jo Winstead is changing all right…

The Queen of Kentucky features a ton of charming personalities (especially that of Ricki Jo and Luke) that jump off the page quickly. Their friendly, relaxed sparring is good natured fun. Plus, Ricki Jo’s somewhat frenetic determination to “better” herself brings about a thought of her being the Southern, farming community’s version of Meg Cabot’s Mia Thermopolis in The Princess Diaries series.

Alecia Whitaker shows the horrors and hurts of high school in a way that transcends the culture of small town life. She also provides a bit of an edge when it comes to revealing Luke’s home life – and she’s rather unique to the YA world in allowing Ricki Jo to (*gasp!*) be a believer in God.

The Queen of Kentucky had some jarringly poignant, moving moments that provided depth among the fluff. It zipped along pleasantly, sometimes heartbreaking, always sensitive. I did occasionally want to shake some sense into Ricki Jo, but she is a relatable character – especially if you are entering your first year of high school, or vividly remember doing so in the past (ahem).

Wow. I just realized I was 14-years-old ten years ago.

Okay. Moving on from that sudden weirdness…

I felt the strongest moments of The Queen of Kentucky were its sensibilities regarding animals, guilt, and family – these portions provided relief from what could sometimes be a predictable story. Yet, even the rather predictable parts were still fun and done pretty well.

The end was slight and sudden, but undeniably sweet. It was a very good, fast read.

*I received a review copy of The Queen of Kentucky from Hachette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.


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