Title: The Queen of Kentucky
Author: Alecia Whitaker
Publication Date: 2 January 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Summary (courtesy of goodreads.com):
Fourteen-year-old Kentucky girl Ricki Jo Winstead, who would prefer 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.
I have very mixed feelings about The Queen of Kentucky. Sometimes I think about it, and it makes me happy and other times it makes me really mad. I think that can always be a problem with these types of "transformation" novels: you love one part of the character, and you hate the other. The problem with The Queen of Kentucky is that it can be hard to tell if the way the main character is acting is because of who she is trying to become, or if that is just how she really is.
My first thoughts about the novel were that I absolutely loved Ricki Jo. Here we have this adorable little Kentucky girl and she was just too much - TOO MUCH CUTENESS - and I wanted to take her in and put her in my pocket and keep her like a little kitten. Which is really weird and I'm sure sounds creepy, but I promise that it was a totally happy, non-creepy thought. Then she started this journey down the road to popularity and Ericka-ness, and I think the change in her was a little too drastic, a little too sudden, for me to believe that her behavior was completely out of character. Alecia Whitaker presents us with this adorbs character that we can't help but love, and without much warning turns her into a blubbering, helpless, excuse-my-French bitch. Obviously we're not supposed to like this new Ricki Jo I mean Ericka, but I couldn't believe that she would become so senseless so quickly. I went from wanting to tuck her in my pocket to wanting to stuff her somewhere much less pleasant.
That said, I really enjoyed the setting of the novel. I'm from California, and the lifestyle and environment of the South are really intriguing to me. I loved reading about the rural Kentucky area where the story took place. I think one of the best parts of reading is that feeling of escape, and getting to learn and experience things I might otherwise never see.
Overall, The Queen of Kentucky had its ups and downs. The setting is beautiful, and when she's not trying so hard, Ricki Jo can be a wonderful character. It was a quick read, and I loved the ending. I definitely had my problems with it, but still think it was a good read.