Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publishing Date: January 28, 2014
Genre: young adult
When high school senior Paul Wagoner walks into his school library with a stolen gun, he threatens his girlfriend Emily Beam, then takes his own life. In the wake of the tragedy, an angry and guilt-ridden Emily is shipped off to boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she encounters a ghostly presence who shares her name. The spirit of Emily Dickinson and two quirky girls offer helping hands, but it is up to Emily to heal her own damaged self.
Emily Beam transfers to an all-girls boarding school after her boyfriend Paul Wagoner kills himself in her old high school library. She and her parents believe it would be best for her to start fresh in a new place, away from everything that could remind her of that traumatic experience. But as Emily attempts to handle her grief, she begins to call upon Emily Dickinson’s works, and uses the poet as a guide to heal her wounds.
The prose is simple, and the poems at the end of each chapter gradually grow from disjointed to lyrical. However, as much as I was hoping this book would be for me, it wasn’t. Emily and her friends K.T. and Amber were not characters I could relate to, possibly because they seemed to lack depth. Emily is an introverted but intelligent cheerleader who dated a boy who was exactly average yet everyone knew him well and he never once seemed like he’d commit suicide. Emily can also be quite hypocritical. Several moments in the novel she judges girls who sleep around, but she herself got pregnant. She at first doesn’t like Amber because Amber is “weird,” but Emily herself can be quite strange and off-putting around others.
The portion that bothered me the most was the extreme stretches of comparison between Emily and the poet Emily Dickinson. Emily would make assumptions that Dickinson must have felt this way too, that she had these exact same experiences and she must have thought these exact things when she wrote poetry. The moments when Emily would visit the Dickinson house or read a book about Dickinson were attempts at bringing the supernatural into play, as if Dickinson were guiding Emily on a better path. I’m all for a good ghost story or a spiritual journey, but the connections were too thin, too stretched. I eventually became bored, as there was nothing for me to cling to when reading the novel.
That being said, I think this novel does have a place for a certain type of audience. Unfortunately, that audience was not me.
Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from Delacorte Press for review.