Review: The Queen of Kentucky by Alecia Whitaker

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.

I put this book on my 50 States Challenge list a few months ago, so when I found the bargain hardcover on Amazon for only a couple of bucks, I was thrilled. It arrived at the perfect time; I was in between books and in the mood for this one.

This is the second book in a row I’ve read where the main character starts attending a new school and wants to reinvent herself to fit in. This is a much better book than the first one.

Ericka/Ricki Jo has lived in the same small town all of her life but because she went to a tiny Catholic school instead of public school, she only knows a few people when she starts high school. She is a genuinely sweet girl and she tries so hard, maybe a little too hard. Most of the girls she picked for her new friends weren’t very nice, but Candace, the one girl she did know slightly and sort-of ditched for the popular girls didn’t seem all that nice either.

Wolf, the guy she likes, has his moments, but ultimately lets Ricki Jo down. There were all kind of red flags there that she chose to ignore. Hey, she’s fourteen. It happens, and in the end, she wasn’t too broken up about it. It could have been much worse for her.

A lot of my favorite parts of the book involved Ricki Jo spending time with her family: clothes shopping with her mom, working the tobacco fields with her father and brother (and Luke), a trip to Walmart with her grandparents. I also liked the slumber parties with her friends (loads of peer pressure there) and her flirtation with Mark. I liked Mark.

There were a few serious parts of the book that I could have done without. One deals with domestic violence in Luke’s family and the other involves her dog Bandit. I have big issues with animals in books. As soon as I spot one, I flip ahead to make sure the pet makes it through the book alive. (Sometimes I accidentally spoil myself for other parts of the book when I do this, but I feel like it’s worth it.)

The Queen of Kentucky felt like it was set in a small town in Kentucky, with talk of tobacco farming and traveling to Lexington to go shopping. I thought it was a little unbelievable that she didn’t know a few more people in public school, but the book didn’t spend much time on that.