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  • Published: 2 March 2012
  • ISBN: 9781869799083
  • Imprint: RHNZ Children’s ebooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 216

I Am Not Esther

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.

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.

  • Published: 2 March 2012
  • ISBN: 9781869799083
  • Imprint: RHNZ Children’s ebooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 216

About the author

Fleur Beale

Fleur Beale is the author of many award-winning books for children and young adults — she has published more than 40 books in New Zealand, as well as in the United States and England. A former high school teacher, Fleur was inspired to write her acclaimed novel I Am Not Esther when one of her students was beaten and expelled from his family for going against their religious beliefs. Fleur is a leading advocate for New Zealand authors, and home-grown literature for children and young adults.

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Praise for I Am Not Esther

Wellington's Beale is one of the most consistently accomplished and versatile writers for teenagers in the country

New Zealand Listener

a strong storyteller

Trevor Agnew, The Press

[Fleur Beale is] consistently engaging

Frances Grant, Weekend Herald [Canvas]

Sort of a Handmaid's Tale for the junior high set, New Zealander Beale's engrossing novel peers into the restricted world of the Children of the Faith, a rigidly traditional (and fictional) Christian sect. Resourceful Kirby has never known any family aside from her impractical mother, Ellen. When Ellen abruptly makes plans to fulfill her lifelong dream of working with refugees in Africa, she sends Kirby to her long-estranged brother, the strict and pious Caleb, and his wife and children. Renamed Esther ("The women of our faith all have biblical names. As do the men," explains soberly clad Aunt Naomi), Kirby chafes at the restrictions forced on her by her newfound kin: they dictate her style of dress and hair, forbid slang and even contractions, and resolutely discourage any ambitions aside from an early marriage and plenty of children. Angry and confused though she is, Kirby becomes attached to her newfound cousins, in particular the vulnerable five-year-old Maggie (Magdalene) and teenage Daniel, who is himself struggling to reconcile his interest in becoming a doctor with the community's mores. Though several plot twists seem to exist mostly to serve the novel's decidedly anti-fundamentalist stance (only dissenter Kirby, for example, has the courage to defy her uncle and get her ailing pregnant aunt the help she needs), this tale still has more than enough power to chill.

US Publishers Weekly

This is a disturbing tale about a girl put into a completely new environment and how she deals with it. Beale's writing is excellent...I had a difficult time putting this one down.

Kathy Brummond, BookReview.com

Kirby, 14, comes home from school to find her usually good-natured "dizzy flake" of a mom crying. The mystery deepens when her mother announces her intention to leave New Zealand almost immediately to work as a nurse in Africa, and ships the teen off to live with an uncle she's never met. Caleb and his family are members of a sect called the Fellowship of the Children of the Faith, and their house has no mirrors, no TV, no radio, no newspapers, and virtually nothing to read but the Bible. Her uncle renames her "Esther" and though she is by turns feisty and irreverent, she quickly learns that everyone suffers when she breaks the rules because discipline consists mostly of grueling prayer sessions that all family members are required to attend. Beginning to find her place among the six siblings, Kirby cannot understand why no one will talk about another sister, Miriam, who died just four weeks earlier. She enjoys increasingly unguarded conversations with her cousin Daniel, who secretly wishes to continue his education and become a doctor, but is horrified by the rigidity and brutality of this male-dominated fundamentalist society. The author builds tension well, introducing layers of conflict, revealing elements of the plot realistically and plausibly. The climax shocks and the resolution feels right. While understanding the comfort and peace that some believers feel, in the end it is clear to Kirby that such strict beliefs limit people, dictating too much of what can't be done instead of allowing personal initiative and creativity to flourish.

US School Library Journal

an author who is in touch with the modern young market

Northern Advocate

Fleur Beale is a great author, as if you yourself were experiencing the life changing adventure.

Evelyn Barber, aged 13, Hookedonbooks.org.nz

Awards & recognition

Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award for a much-loved book

Awarded  •  2009  •  Winner, Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award

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Teachers' notes

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