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The Queen of Kentucky    by Alecia Whitaker order for
Queen of Kentucky
by Alecia Whitaker
Order:  USA  Can
Poppy, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Many YA contemporaries deal with finding yourself and discovering what true friendship is. The Queen of Kentucky is one of these stories, but author Alecia Whitaker puts a different spin on the classic trope.

Ricki Jo Winstead is excited about starting school at the public high school in rural Kentucky. Up until now, she has gone to Catholic school, but that ends at 8th grade. Ricki Jo sees this move as a great way to reintroduce herself and starts with going by her formal name, Ericka. Her first day of school, she finds herself sitting in homeroom with a group of cheerleaders and the Freshman heartthrob, Wolf. From that moment, Ricki Jo decides she wants these to be her new best friends.

Her neighbor and previous best friend, Luke, warns her that these might not be the type of people she really wants to be like, but as they are popular and decide to make Ricki Jo their project, she ignores his warnings. However, while Ricki Jo (now Ericka) is facing the pitfalls of trying to be popular, Luke is having problems of his own with his abusive, alcoholic father. By the time Ricki Jo learns who her true friends are, will it be too late for Luke?

Everyone can relate to wanting a fresh start to reinvent themselves. I will even admit that I was very much like Ricki Jo going into high school (although I went the other way and changed from Erica to Ricki). In this way, Ricki Jo is a great protagonist for younger teens. The obstacles that Whitaker sets out for her are very realistic, and the problems Luke is facing put an interesting spin on her friendship decisions. As in any good YA novel, Ricki Jo grows throughout, finally realizing where she belongs at the end.

The Queen of Kentucky is a great read that moves at a steady pace, easily keeping younger teen readers engaged. With great humor and emotion, Alecia Whitaker brings this country girl to bubbling life on the page.

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