As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

October 6, 2014

NOT IN THE SCRIPT by Amy Finnegan, 2014

Millions of people witnessed Emma Taylor’s first kiss—a kiss that needed twelve takes and four camera angles to get right. After spending nearly all of her teen years performing on cue, Emma wonders if any part of her life is real anymore . . . particularly her relationships. Jake Elliott’s face is on magazine ads around the world, but his lucrative modeling deals were a poor substitute for what he had to leave behind. Now acting is offering Jake everything he wants: close proximity to home; an opportunity to finally start school; and plenty of time with the smart and irresistible Emma Taylor . . . if she would just give him a chance. When Jake takes Emma behind the scenes of his real life, she begins to see how genuine he is, but on-set relationships always end badly. Don’t they? (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Jessica Day George, NYT Bestselling Young Adult and Middle Grade Author

So. Much. Fun.

No. Seriously.

As many of you know, I am not big into romance, especially teen romance. It's just not my thing.

But I loved this book.

Let's face It: most of us secretly want to be famous. We watch TV and think, Her life must be so awesome. I want to get paid a bajillion dollars just to look pretty (and have a whole team of people to make me look pretty) and get free Prada handbags and shoes and have a gold-plated bathtub. We've all thought this, don't lie to me and say you haven't! But let's pause to think about WHY we know that Jay-z and Beyonce have a gold-plated tub: because of the tabloids. Because everywhere they go, they're followed by photographers and reporters. "Sources close to the couple reveal that they sleep on fur pillows and bathe in the tears of Mayan virgins." Who are these sources? Well, it might be a lie because that reporter couldn't dig up anything, but it also might be a trusted friend or family member who decided to sell the info to the press. Yowza.

And that's the world of NOT IN THE SCRIPT. Emma is a child star who's grown up in the spotlight. Every date she's been on has been publicized and analyzed. A quick trip to the grocery store for some celery causes speculation that she's starving herself with an all-celery diet, and she suspects that her best friend has sold some of her secrets to the tabloids. Jake is a model who is only in the business because his family needs the money. He's not used to being followed by paparazzi, or being careful about where he goes and who he talks to. So life is more than usually complicated for Jake and Emma, and everyone around them. Along with the usual pressures of school, family, and friends, they're working full time on a new TV show. The success of the show, and so the careers of hundreds of people in the cast and crew, rest in the four principal actors, all of whom are teens, and all of whom are being stalked by paparazzi who are hoping that they screw up and date the wrong person who get in an argument with a friend, the way normal teens do every day. But that's not acceptable when you're a star.

This book was so fun and fascinating! It was romantic without being insipid. No one grazed anyone's jaw with their thumb. Emma wasn't constantly manhandled by guys she just met, except for this one guy, who is known to be inappropriately handsy. (Those are my two pet peeves in romances. The jaw rubbing and the grabbing.) There was humor and drama in spades as well. Finnegan has been on the sets of a number of TV shows, because she has a family member who is an assistant director, and there's lots of great, insidery details. I normally don't fall for teen guys in YA books, because I am an old lady, but honestly . . . Jake . . . Oooohhh. I kept thinking of Flynn Ryder in Tangled: You leave me no choice! Here comes the smolder! (So much smolder! But not in a pretentious way!) And Emma was delightful, because she was so real. She's the kind of person I would like to be friends with: complex, interesting, and fun. I stayed up late reading, because I just had to know what was going to happen next.

Hilariously, I kind of knew, because I read the manuscript, but the finished book still kept me up!

Yes, I'm lucky enough to count Amy Finnegan as a friend! DRAGON SPEAR is dedicated to Amy because she inspired its plot, and she was my romance consultant on that book. (I'm not kidding. She had to mark in the margins of the manuscript where Creel and Luka should kiss, hug, or hold hands, because: not my thing.) I'm so excited for her first book!

And so very excited to tell you that, in all honesty and setting our friendship aside, it's REALLY, REALLY GOOD!

Market: YA romance
Violence: A brief fistfight
Language: None
Sensuality: Implications that a couple of characters are partiers, cheat on their girlfriends/boyfriends, nothing explicit.
Adult Themes: Identity, disability

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October 5, 2014

Celebrating the Castle Glower Series by Jessica Day George

Reviews (and babblings) by Kim Harris Thacker: mommy, writer, and Bookshop Talk host

Confession: I love secret passages. Not that I have any experience with them; I just love them on principle. In fact, if I ever have the opportunity to design my own home, you can bet that I’ll include at least one hidden doorway and a secret passageway or two.

It’s this very obsession with concealed spaces that leads me to absolutely adore Jessica Day George’s best-selling “Castle Glower” series, the third book of which comes out tomorrow, October 7th! And to help you all to prepare for this awesome event, I would like to share my reviews of the first two books in the series (an introduction to the third book, THURSDAYS WITH THE CROWN, will follow the reviews):

Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one—other than Celie, that is—takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom. This delightful book from a fan—and bookseller—favorite kicks off a brand-new series sure to become a modern classic. (Goodreads)

This is such a marvelous book, by such a marvelous author. Jessica’s books are always utterly gobble-worthy...but there’s just something particularly wonderful about this first title in the Castle Glower series. Maybe it’s the setting...

The Land of Sleyne sounds picturesque, with its mountains and bowl-shaped valleys, but it’s the castle that serves as the home for Sleyne’s king (Glower the Seventy-Ninth) and his family that thrills me. After all, what child (or young-hearted adult, for that matter) doesn’t long for secret passages and magic? The layout of Castle Glower is in a constant state of flux, so it’s like one gargantuan maze of secret passages, built through magic. Now that is my idea of a fantastic setting—a castle that can alter its form at will. And yes, I said at will, because Castle Glower has a will. The castle is a key character in TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE, and come to think of it, maybe it’s the array of characters that has me gushing over this book.

The castle is like a human in so many ways, even suffering from boredom! When the doldrums strike, Castle Glower “stretches,” resulting in an added turret here, a room there, and sometimes even a whole new wing. This seems rather whimsical of the castle, but don’t be fooled. Castle Glower is not a character to be trifled with. Those who visit the castle had better mind their Ps and Qs, or they could end up like the Ambassador of Bendeswe, who found himself walled into his bedroom once the castle found out he was a spy.

Another character to love is Princess Celie, who is spunky, courageous, and smart. She also possesses an atlas of the changing castle, and it is for this reason, perhaps, that the castle pays special attention to Celie’s needs, even growing escape routes when she needs them...and boy, does she need them! This is a girl who attracts adventure, for sure.

There are also lots of other wonderful characters in TUESDAYS, such as the handsome Pogue Parry, the odd-but-loveable Prince Lulath of Grath (and his doggies), the spine-tinglingly evil Prince Khelsh of Vhervhine, and, of course, Celie’s family. I love the relationships between Celie and her siblings, in particular. Her older brother, Rolf, is the second son of the king and queen, but the castle “chose” him to be King Glower’s heir by moving his suite of rooms next to the Throne Room. Celie’s older sister, Lilah, is capable and a bit bossy, but she proves her worth many times over in TUESDAYS. Celie’s oldest brother, Bran, was sent to a college for wizards after the castle kept furnishing his rooms with books and astrolabes. It is, in fact, on the journey to witness Bran’s graduation that Celie’s parents (who sound like the best king and queen ever) are ambushed and...well, you’ll just have to read the book if you want to know what happens to them and to Celie and her siblings as a result.

I do love the setting and the characters in TUESDAYS, but there is so much more to love, too! Jessica’s writing is rich and vivid. The story moves quickly; there is never a dull moment. Every element of the book works with every other element, creating a tight adventure story that any reader will enjoy.

Strange things are afoot in Castle Glower: new rooms, corridors, and even stables keep arriving, even when they aren't needed. Celie's brother Bran, the new Royal Wizard, has his hands full cataloguing an entire storeroom full of exotic and highly dangerous weapons, while Celie has her hands full . . . raising the creature that hatches from a giant egg she finds! Will they be able to find out what's making the Castle behave this way in time? (Goodreads)

Princess Celie is no stranger to trouble. In the first book in the Castle Glower series, entitled TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE, she unearthed a plot to destroy her family and take over the kingdom, and this second book of the Castle Glower series begins with Celie taking on the raising of a griffin she names Rufus! But WEDNESDAYS IN THE TOWER isn’t just the story of a princess with an odd pet; it’s a mystery!

The tower where Rufus hatches is revealed to Celie not on a Tuesday, as is the norm, but on a Wednesday. So right away, Celie knows something is amiss with Castle Glower. Combine Rufus’s appearance with that of a strange room full of mysterious—and possibly cursed—weaponry, the Holiday Dining Hall (which isn’t due to arrive), and stables that are the wrong size to be of any use, and you have not just a mystery, but a mystery that gets to the heart of where Castle Glower comes from and how it ended up in the kingdom of Sleyne.

This second book in the Castle Glower series brings back many of my favorite characters, including three that get a little more page-time, this time around: Bran (the Royal Wizard and Celie’s oldest brother), Pogue Parry (the local blacksmith and village heartthrob), and Prince Lulath of Grath (and his little doggies). Bran really comes into his own as a wizard, in this book; the reader learns that, just as we suspected from TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE, Pogue Parry is much more than a handsome face; and Prince Lulath isn’t always the epitome of the term, “foppish fellow.”

Of course, I can’t name favorite characters without mentioning Celie. She wins me over more with each of the Castle Glower books. In WEDNESDAYS, she is resourceful, brave, and sympathetic to those who find themselves in a situation where it feels as if they have no choice but to do what everyone else tells them to do. In short, Celie is my kind of heroine: the kind that makes hard choices. And I can’t wait to see what happens to her now that she—wait a minute! I can’t give away the ending of this book! Just know unlike TUESDAYS, which resolves at the end (for the most part—there are those tantalizing threads that Jessica Day George so lovingly tugs through this series from book to book), WEDNESDAYS ends with a cliffhanger! So if you haven’t read it yet, save yourself some time and buy THURSDAYS, at the same time that you buy WEDNESDAYS, because you’re going to want it, immediately! And if you have already read WEDNESDAYS, then you’re just like me: eagerly anticipating the release of THURSDAYS on October 7th!


Castle Glower has been acting weird, so it’s no surprise when two towers transport Celie and her siblings to an unknown land. When they realize that no one from home is coming to get them, the kids – along with Celie’s pet griffin Rufus – set out through the forest to figure out where they are and what’s happened to their beloved Castle. Instead, they discover two wizards and an entire lost people, the oldest inhabitants of Castle Glower. And it seems they may know more of the Castle’s secrets than Celie. But do they know how to get her back home? (Goodreads)


Market: MG fantasy
Language: none
Violence: in both books: a few minor injuries; in TUESDAYS: Celie’s life is in danger, and her parents and brother are attacked and their fate is unknown (also, some of the guards who were with her parents are brother are killed)
Sensuality: mild flirting
Adult themes: duplicity, politics

*Read my 2011 interview with author Jessica Day George (who also happens to be one of the hosts of Bookshop Talk along with myself and author Amy Finnegan) here.

October 1, 2014

I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson, 2014

Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world. This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Jessica Day George, NYT Bestselling Middle Grade and Young Adult Author

I was at BEA, leaving the “speed dating” event where tables of librarians and booksellers are given ARCs of upcoming books, and the authors make the rounds and have three minutes to tell each table about their book. Apparently I was in the same room with Jandy Nelson at this time, but I didn’t know her name then.  Now that I’ve read I’ll Give You The Sun, I’m kind of afraid to run into her, because I might start hyperventilating and then cry all over her.  So, anyway, as I was leaving the event I was eyeing some of the books that had been discarded, picking up a few things for myself. I saw this book, and said to my publicist, “That’s a fun cover.” The librarian who had just put it down, said, “You haven’t read this book?” I said, “No, I’ve never heard of it.” She thrust this into my hands! “You should take this! Take it!” I told her that she should keep it, and it she said that she already had a copy, and had already read it, and it was amazing. She was putting this copy back because she wanted to spread the love. She had such an intense expression I was both intrigued and taken aback.

A couple of months later it comes to my attention that I’m hearing more and more about this book. That people are bemoaning that they didn’t fight the crowds at BEA hard enough to get a copy, and I’m wondering if I should feel guilty because I have this coveted book and haven’t read it yet. So at last I crack it open to find . . . a dreamy artistic boy being bullied by two jocks. And I’ll admit it: I thought, Ugh, really? That's what this is about? Another book about bullying? (Yes, bullying it terrible. But I just wasn't in the mood, okay?) I forged ahead, though, and by page three I was hooked because of the way the dreamy artistic boy (Noah) described things. His twin sister Jude's hair like snakes trying to strangle him. Colors oozing from walls, people’s words changing color and taking shape depending on if they’re lying or telling the truth . . . his internal monologue is a series of wild, brilliant paintings.

And then there’s Jude. Jude sees ghosts, specifically family ghosts. Their grandmother follows her around, giving her advice on boys and fashion and life. A vengeful ghost destroys Jude’s art projects and you wonder if they’re both crazy, except the art is really being destroyed by outside forces, and others can sense it. This is the finest use of magical realism I’ve ever encountered in a YA novel.

The book is told in alternating points of view, jumping between Noah at thirteen and Jude at sixteen, until their two stories finally collide. I read this book in one day because I simply couldn’t stop. I was not only worried about the characters, but I wanted to know what had split their two narratives, and if they would ever come back together. I was so caught up in their lives that I later felt sad that I had read it so fast, because I wanted to spend more time with Noah and Jude and ghost grandma and everyone else.

It's just a gorgeous, gorgeous book and I want to see it showered with all the accolades and awards.

Market: YA contemporary
Language: Though not pervasive, there are some swear words including the F-word, and insults including homosexual slurs.
Violence: A boy is roughed up by bullies, the occasional punch or fistfight
Sensuality: A heterosexual sex scene (though it is not intended to be titillating and is not graphic), homosexual kissing.
Adult themes: homosexuality, adultery, bullying, depression

September 12, 2014

OUT OF THE EASY by Ruta Sepetys, 2013

It's 1950 and the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie Moraine wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Julie, Children's lit enthusiast and pop culture geek

OUT OF THE EASY chronicles the life of seventeen-year-old Josie in 1950s New Orleans.  Saddled with the reputation of a prostitute's daughter, Josie yearns for a better life.  However, when a murder occurs, Josie is embroiled in a police investigation that will challenge her morals and allegiances.

Out of the Easy instantly pulls you into the seedy underbelly of New Orleans, where secrets abound and characters are as full and rich as a bowl of gumbo.  (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)  The main character, Josie, is mature, interesting, and tough-as-nails.  You can't help but root for her as she does anything she can not to end up like her mother.  The supporting characters are just as fascinating.  Two to look out for include:  Cokie, the cab driver with a heart of gold, who wants the best for Josie, and Willie, the brothel madam, who is sassy, unexpectedly likable, and more of a mother figure than Josie's ever had.  The characters carry the plot effortlessly, keeping you company as the mystery of another character's death unravels.

After reading Sepetys's first novel, Between Shades of Gray, I was worried Out of the Easy wouldn't compare.  However, Sepetys proves with her second novel that she is a master of YA historical fiction. It is almost not worth comparing the two novels, because the settings and characters are so different.  Sepetys's novels are like time machines: she can effortlessly recreate any historical time period and make you believe you were there.  If you love historical fiction novels and aren't afraid of a little grit, be sure to pick this one up.

Market: YA historical fiction
Violence: Allusions to crime (the central murder, gang activity, the protagonist carries a gun, etc.)
Language: Mild--mostly cruel barbs from Josie's mother
Sensuality: The novel's main setting is a brothel, so the sexual
undertones and innuendos are pretty unavoidable.  However, nothing is too explicit for the age group, and Josie's determination to rise about this lifestyle overrides any possible glamorization of prostitution.
Adult Themes: Identity/family struggle, poverty, prostitution, education, murder

September 7, 2014

FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER by Ellen Meister, 2013

When it comes to movie reviews, critic Violet Epps is a powerhouse voice. But that's only because she's learned to channel her literary hero, Dorothy Parker, the most celebrated and scathing wit of the 20th century. If only Violet could summon that kind of courage in her personal life. Determined to defeat her social anxiety, Violet visits the Algonquin Hotel where Dorothy Parker and so many other famous writers of the 1920s traded barbs. But she gets more than she bargained for when Dorothy Parker's feisty spirit rematerializes from an ancient guestbook and hitches a ride onto her life. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Julie, Children's lit enthusiast and pop culture geek

Famous critic Violet Epps may be able to skewer movies with scathing wit, but in real life, she is a timid mouse.  Juggling a deadbeat boyfriend, a custody case involving her teenage niece, and rivals at work, Violet feels like she will crumble under the pressure of it all. One day, at the Algonquin Hotel, Violet accidentally summons the ghost of her hero, writer and humorist Dorothy Parker.  When the delightfully-acerbic Mrs. Parker refuses to leave, Violet realizes that this spirit may be able to help her find the courage she needs.

When I first heard about this novel, I was hesitant. Recreating Dorothy Parker, mistress of the verbal hand  grenade?  Could it be done?  Well, Ellen Meister's creation is about as true a representation of Dorothy Parker as can be.  The novel is alive with zingers and one liners, some invented, and some attributed to the great Mrs. Parker.  Meister's imagination runs wild with the kind of trouble Parker might get into in the 21st century.  There is never a dull moment in the book, and laughs abound.

The plot itself is interesting and, while reminiscent of many "chick lit" or romantic comedy works, gives the opportunity to add depth to Parker's character.  Violet's teenage niece, a young girl reeling after her parents' sudden deaths in a car accident, relates to Parker's lifelong struggle with grief and depression.  Here, Meister is able to present a different side to a historical figure who is so often known only for her smart-aleck remarks.  Of course, these aspects of the novel also make Violet's struggle all the more real and relatable--but Mrs. Parker is certainly always the star of the novel.

Written with incredible love for its namesake, FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER is a wonderful novel for Parker's fans and those who have yet to discover her.  Meister's storytelling and sparkling language would have made Dottie proud.

Market: Adult fiction
Violence: none
Language: moderate (a couple of f-bombs, used in a light/joking context)
Sensuality: moderate (1-2 intimate scenes, but nothing explicit)
Adult Themes: romantic relationships, alcoholism, death and grief

September 1, 2014

FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS by Diana Peterfreund, 2012

Elliot North is a dutiful Luddite and a dutiful daughter who runs her father’s estate. When the boy she loved, Kai, a servant, asked her to run away with him four years ago, she refused, although it broke her heart. Now Kai is back. And while Elliot longs for a second chance with her first love, she knows it could mean betraying everything she’s been raised to believe is right. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Brooke-Wife, Mother, Reader

Jane Austen's Persuasion set in a post apocalyptic society.  Fascinating. Really this was a surprise for me (meaning I liked it more than I thought I would). There were the familiar elements of Persuasion, but also so much more.  

The setting was almost a character on its own.  So many of the circumstances of the story revolved around the setting.  Elliot, the heroine of the story, was tied to her farm, keeping it running, trying to keep her family and the workers alive.  

The ages of the characters were very young.  It was hard for me to picture these teenagers dealing with all of this, but that is part of the post-apocalyptic society.

The post-apocalyptic rules and regulations created much of the conflict in the story.  When do you follow the rules?  When do you do what you believe is right, if that goes against those rules?

FOR THE DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS was a book about decision making and the consequences that follow, good or bad.  

Luckily, with the base of Jane Austen's Persuasion, there was at least some sense of there being a happy ending.  And, as much as this is a love story, it had little physical romance in it.  

Market: Teen/Young Adult
Language: Mild
Sensuality: Mild
Violence: Mild
Mature Themes: Growing up fast

August 28, 2014

TELL THE WOLVES I'M HOME by Carol Rifka Brunt, 2012

There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart. (Amazon)

Reviewed by 
Julie, Children's Lit. enthusiast and pop culture geek

TELL THE WOLVES I'M HOME is a coming of age novel set in New York in 
1987.  When fourteen-year-old June Elbus learns that her uncle Finn, a famous artist, has died of AIDS, her grief is immeasurable.  Uncle Finn has always been the only one who understands her, who values her unusual interests and social awkwardness.  Without him, June is left virtually friendless: her older sister Greta bullies her, and her parents refuse to give her answers regarding Finn's mysterious illness.  Then, one day, June receives her uncle's favorite teapot in the mail with an accompanying note . . . and a new friend and confidante steps into her life.

Carol Rifka Brunt has crafted a thoroughly engrossing, relatable, and bittersweet first novel.  A coming of age story, Tell the Wolves I'm Home tackles many difficult issues, but manages to remain insightful and hopeful.  Set in 1987, the novel and its characters feel transcendent, but the narrative reveals the decade's prejudices towards AIDS and homosexuality.  Much of the mystery surrounding Finn's illness reflects the mysteries in June's family: Why is June's mother so reluctant to talk about Finn?  Why did Finn insist on painting June's portrait weeks before his death?  How did June's and Greta's once-strong relationship dissolve?  Most importantly--who is the stranger who appeared at Finn's funeral?  The story will keep you reading, but Brunt's gorgeous, lyrical language will make you want to take your time.  Every word, every sentence flows beautifully and feels like poetry.

The characters are another high point of the novel.  June, a teenage loner, is sensitive and interesting, an homage to anyone who just wants to feel loved and understood.  Uncle Finn, portrayed with loving detail, appears largely in flashbacks but lights up every scene. June's affection for him, while complicated, feels relatable and moving.  Even Greta, the older sister, proves to be appropriately complex and sympathetic despite her mean-girl ways.  This novel would make a great read for anyone who loves to read about love, family dynamics, and the difficulties of growing up.

Market: upper YA/Adult realistic fiction
Language: mild
Sensuality: mild (first love feelings, quiet allusions to sex)
Violence: mild (one scene discusses a character's criminal past)
Mature Themes: Death and grief, AIDS/illness, family relationships, sexuality

August 26, 2014


When Claire’s best friend Richy went missing, he disappeared without a trace. But when Emily Dickinson’s dress goes missing from the Amherst museum, she knows exactly where it is: in her closet. As Claire and her student teacher, Tate, attempt to figure out what do to about the dress, they begin to uncover the truth behind Richy's disappearing act. Following a trail of clues across state lines, Claire and Tate attempt to find the person that Claire knows in her gut is responsible for his disappearance. (Amazon)

Julie, Children's Lit. enthusiast and pop culture geek

EMILY'S DRESS AND OTHER MISSING THINGS chronicles teenage Claire's attempts to come to grips with multiple losses. Having lost her mother to suicide years ago, Claire is now struggling with her best friend Richy's disappearance.  She feels responsible for both losses and afraid to jinx anyone else she might befriend.  Claire finds solace in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and, one night, one thing leads to another--and Claire accidentally steals the famous poet's dress from the Emily Dickinson House!  With the help of Tate, her student teacher and friend, Claire must return the dress--and sort out all of the other missing parts of her life.

Suicide, disappearance, loss, and grief--too much for a single novel? Somehow Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things balances all of these tough subjects without ever crossing into melodrama or after-school special territory.  Even though college-bound Claire is YA age, the narrative handles issues with such poignant sensitivity that mature middle schoolers could read and enjoy the novel.  Intelligent and sympathetic, Claire will appeal to many readers, especially young girls with ears for poetry.

High stakes mysteries thread themselves throughout the novel and will make readers want to keep reading.  The language in the novel is subtle, but lovely.  I can see how the writing style may not appeal to everyone--especially those who balk at poetry.  But Burak's quiet lyricism made this Emily Dickinson fan read long after that "certain slant of light" faded into dusk.

Market: upper middle grade or YA fiction
Language: none
Sensuality: none
Violence: references to suicide and death
Mature Themes: Death and grief, suicide, disappearance