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.
This inventive story, told in verse and in prose, paints the aftermath of tragedy as a landscape where there is good behind the bad, hope inside the despair, and springtime under the snow.
(Description from Goodreads)
FINAL GRADE: First off, I received this as an ARC from NetGalley. I really wanted to like this book. Like, really, really, REALLY wanted to like it. The synopsis sounds great, doesn’t it? Sadly, the book fell short and I wasn’t all that impressed. There were redeeming qualities to it, which is why it received a grade of C, but I cringed a lot while reading; I was determined to finish it, however.
Okay, so the book starts off with letting us know that Emily is now at a boarding school for girls after her boyfriend brought a gun to school and killed himself. I won’t say why he did, but the reason just fell flat for me. Ugh, worthy. But as for Emily, for someone who saw her boyfriend kill himself while at school, I would have expected her to show more emotions. However, she was a very flat character, with hardly any emotion at all. Not exactly what I would expect from someone in her situation. She showed some emotion toward the end of the book, but not enough to make up for the rest of book having a lack of emotion.
What really bothered me the most about this book was how it was written: 3rd person present tense. It was seriously like pulling teeth for me to get through the book with that kind of writing. A typical sentence read, “Emily walks to the bathroom down the hallway and looks at herself in the mirror” (this wasn’t actually a sentence, but it gets the point across). For some reason, I just couldn’t stand the style of writing; it felt way too forced. Maybe to some it isn’t an issue, but it took a lot for me to read the book just because of that.
Some of the aspects I did like about the book was the imagery and the poems (that Emily wrote while at boarding school) that were scattered throughout. The poems were really good (which says something, because I’m not a huge fan of poetry) and the imagery picked up the slack of the rest of the book.
I surprisingly liked Emily’s roommate, K.T.; she at least showed emotion and was compelling to find out more about. I really wasn’t invested in Emily’s storyline after a certain point, but K.T.’s presence made up for what Emily was lacking.
I also liked that there were flashbacks to what happened before Emily came to her new school (the events that led up to it). Considering I had just read Hate List by Jennifer Brown right before I read this one, I saw that was a possible connection between the two stories: the flashbacks the main characters provided for the reader were very informative and truly added more to the story.
For a book that mentioned the presence of Emily Dickinson quite a bit, there was rarely any true presence, which was pretty disappointing. I requested this book because of the literary connection, but there really wasn’t one…just a mention and a few happenings that could possibly be deciphered as something of the sort.
The last few pages I found myself finally feeling invested int he story, but by that point, it was almost too late for me to really enjoy the story. I wish I had felt a stronger connection with this book, but I just couldn’t dig it up. There were several aspects to the book that I did enjoy, but the negatives put the positives in the shadows.