Alecia Whitaker pens a beguiling and entertaining coming-of-age story in her debut young-adult novel The Queen of Kentucky. Caught between two worlds, Ricki Jo Winstead is a tobacco farmer’s daughter living in rural Kentucky with dreams of a different life. Though her best friend, Luke, likes “plain old Ricki Jo” just the way she is, she radically changes her image as she enters high school—even insisting she be called Erika. Soon, Erika dons new clothes and espouses new beliefs and behaviors as she immerses herself deeper and deeper into “the in crowd” and sacrifices her upbringing to please and appease the whims of others.
Throughout the novel, Ricki Jo goes through the perils of reinventing herself and shedding her girl-next-door image for a spot at the cool table. And as she moves closer to the person she wants to be, she loses herself in the betrayals of high school, falls in love with the wrong guy, questions her newly created identity, takes up with the wrong crowd, and eventually discovers that the best surprises come out of the worst circumstances and hardships. Chock-full of sass and wit, The Queen of Kentucky is a must-read for its captivating narrative and genuine charm.
— Journey McAndrews