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This sweet contemporary story about poetry, family, and determining your own destiny is perfect for fans of books by Wendy Mass, Joan Bauer, Sharon Creech, and Rebecca Stead.
Eleven-year-old Emily Elizabeth Davis has never met her father, so when a book of poetry with his name in it goes missing, Emily and her friends search all over their hometown of Berkeley, California, hoping to track it down. Meanwhile, even though her English-professor mother insists that Emily is destined to become a poet (she named her after Emily Dickinson!), Emily secretly corresponds with her idol, romance writer Danielle Steel.
As Publishers Weekly says, “Fitzmaurice’s story deftly mingles Dickinson, Danielle Steel, a budding crush, and protesting tree sitters while maintaining suspense that leads to a satisfying ending.” (Via Goodreads)
I didn’t like this book, and I knew I didn’t like it by page nine. It’s exactly the kind of children’s book that bothers me. (Mild spoilers ahead.)
Things I didn’t like:
It has a perplexing mish-mash of religions, worldviews, and ideologies such as Catholicism, determining your own destiny, a tiny bit of feminism, and whatever you call being a hippie.
Emily’s mother is a hippie, parts of the book revolve around the “tree-huggers” trying to prevent trees from being cut down, and near the end, Emily herself sleeps with the tree-huggers.
The romance. It is mild, but honestly, I’m not a fan of romance in children’s books. I mean, the main character is eleven. There’s nothing inappropriate; it’s just way too old for the age group this book is intended for.
Emily plays hooky from school to look for her missing book, bringing her best friend and her eight-year-old cousin with her. They talk a gullible cashier into impersonating their parents and calling them in sick, forge a signature on a school excuse, go to various bookstores and visit a palm reader, take a bus, and walk home from school like nothing happened. It’s totally and completely irresponsible, but what’s worse, none of them receive any consequences whatsoever, even though Emily’s mother found out about it.
Emily also goes to a romance writing group at the library that her mother doesn’t know about. I’m not sure I like the idea of an eleven-year-old wanting to write romance novels, but I think her desire to write happy endings to romances is born out of her constant wondering who her father is, and if someday he’ll come back to her and her mother.
Although I did enjoy some things about the book, in my opinion it wasn’t enough to redeem it.
Things I liked:
The character development. My favorite character was Mortie, the eight-year-old cousin who is obsessed with all things military. He was hilarious! I also felt like Emily’s progression throughout the book was well-done, even if I didn’t like the way she was progressing.
The writing style was fairly concise and to-the-point, although the varying religions/worldviews/ideologies were confusing.
The ending was sweet and all the pieces connected nicely. Even though I didn’t love the way the author put it down to “Fate” or “Destiny”, I liked the way it ended. Unfortunately, I felt like the happy ending was overshadowed by all of the things I didn’t like.
In summary: Although this is a sweet story, I wouldn’t recommend this book for middle grade readers, or honestly anyone because of the defiance shown by the main character, the romance, and the strange worldviews. Most of it made me want to cry, “Why, oh, why, would you put this in a children’s book?” For those reasons, I would rate it two and a half stars.