Hardback: 375 Pages
Publication: January 2, 2012 by Poppy
Fourteen-year-old Kentucky girl Ricki Jo Winstead, who would preferred to be called Ericka, thank you very much, is eager to shed her farmer's daughter roots and become part of the popular crowd at her small town high school. She trades her Bible for Seventeen magazine, buys new "sophisticated" clothes and somehow manages to secure a tenuous spot at the cool kids table. She's on top of the world, even though her best friend and the boy next door Luke says he misses "plain old Ricki Jo."
Caught between being a country girl and wannabe country club girl, Ricki Jo begins to forget who she truly is: someone who doesn't care what people think and who wouldn't let a good-looking guy walk all over her. It takes a serious incident out on Luke's farm for Ricki Jo to realize that being a true friend is more important than being popular.
This is such a fun read! Most of us at one point or another worried about fitting in, with any crowd, and Ricki Jo is the same way. She wants to be popular, date a hot guy, and be liked. The way she goes about it is hilarious and sometimes nerve-wracking and over-the-top. I mean, a fourteen-year-old girl sneaking out and drinking? Yeah. Ricki Jo is willing to sacrifice to some of her moral qualms in order to belong, and her flaws made her all the more endearing to me.
Of course, Ricki Jo's actions, their consequences, and her re-actions, are what make her a bundle of joy to read about. There are times when I was frustrated with her lack of awareness of how she's hurting good people like Luke and Candace, and I wanted to go right up to her and set her on the right track. Ricki Jo is a country girl at heart, trying to find her place, and she grows a lot over the course of the novel. I adore the country setting. I love country settings in general. Offer me a book with a rural setting, and I'll snatch it up. Whitaker ties in Ricki Jo's country roots into some incidents, some of which are laugh moments, some of which made me gasp.
The Queen of Kentucky is more than a book about a country girl wanting to go country club. There are some dark clouds looming close to home, and Ricki Jo struggles to bring together who she is on the inside and who she is trying to become on the outside. The serious incident takes place close to the end of the novel, which was slightly disappointing because I was hoping to find out what exactly comes out of it. However, I appreciate how Whitaker concludes the novel by leaving it open for Ricki Jo to take the next step.
While Ricki Jo pines for the resident bad boy and deals with a new awareness of a boy she's known all her life, these are part of the process of her self-discovery. This book is not centered on romance. If you are looking for a light, fun contemporary read that is focused more on character growth, I strongly recommend this novel. It is a breath of fresh, country air for the YA genre.
A copy was provided by the publisher for review purposes