Author(s): Fleur Beale
A classic bestseller that's been in print for over 20 years, this gripping YA thriller follows a teenage girl caught in a religious cult. Imagine that your mother tells you she's going away. She is going to leave you with relatives you've never heard of - and they are members of a strict religious cult. Your name is changed, and you are forced to follow the severe set of social standards set by the cult. There is no television, no radio, no newspaper. No mirrors. You must wear long, modest clothes. You don't know where your mother is, and you are beginning to question your own identity. I am not Esther is a gripping psychological thriller written by New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards-winning children's writer Fleur Beale. In Esther she creates an enthralling and utterly compelling portrait of a teenager going through her worst nightmare.
I am not Esther by Fleur Beale is about a girl named Kirby who lives with her Mum. Everything is great, Kirby looks after her Mum and everything seems to be fine until one day Kirby's mum tells her she is leaving to go to Africa and Kirby is to go and live with family she has never heard of. They are part of a strict religious cult and make her change her name to Esther and they live under rules that include there is to be no mirrors, radio, television or newspapers. She must wear long modest clothes and always have her hair tied up in a long plait down her back. Meantime, Kirby has no idea where her Mum is or even if she has arrived in Africa. She starts to wonder if she will ever be the old Kirby again or if she will have to remain Esther forever and live under the rules that she hates. Kirby needs to find her Mum before it is too late.
I enjoyed this book and would recommend it for girls aged 12 and over. It kept me interested from start to finish.
- Rebecca, 13, Guest teen reviewer
Prompted by my book group topic (religion) for last month, I finally read Fleur Beale's I am not Esther. This is been on my 'to read' list for years. Kirby, much to her horror and confusion, is abandoned by her mother and left with her uncle and his ultra-religious family. After initially rebelling, she quickly realises that everyone in the family, including the youngest and most vulnerable, are punished by her 'bad' behaviour. She finds herself having to cope with this strange situation, but it is one where the pressure becomes too much; where Kirby, renamed 'Esther' by her new family, has to constantly remind herself who she is and gather her strength not only to help herself, but also others. Fleur Beale handles fundamentalism and cult religion with sensitivity and a sharp eye. Her books for teens are fantastic, and this one (first published in 1999), luckily for us, is still in print. If you like her writing, also check out the ‘Juno’ series. - Stella
I Am Not Esther, I Am Rebecca and Sins of the Father by Fleur Beale
I have just finished reading three books by Fleur Beale, first was I am not Esther, quickly followed by I am Rebecca, then, without pause, Sins of the Father. All three books completely intrigued me. The first two are Young Adult books, which follow a period in the lives of Kirby (Esther) and Rebecca, who belong to a closed religious family. Through reading about their lives, issues of religion, power, power, control and freedom are explored. The non-fiction Sins of the Father, is an account of the life of Phil Cooper, the son of Neville Cooper, the founder and leader of the West Coast Glorivale community - a fascinating read and insight into the ‘Cooperites’ and the impact such a life had on one family. - Sarah
Fleur Beale is a former teacher who was inspired to write I am not Esther when one of her students was beaten and expelled from his family for going against their religious beliefs. She has published over 30 novels and received many awards including an Honour Award for I am not Esther in the 1999 NZ Post Children's Book Awards. I am not Esther has been in print for 12 years and is sold in a number of countries.