Friday, April 12, 2013

Me on Nobody's Secret

Title: Nobody's Secret
Author: Michaela MacColl
Release Date: April 23, 2013
Publisher: Chronicle Books

It's 1845, and for fifteen-year-old Emily Dickinson, every day follows the same patters: chores, chores, and more chores. So when she meets a mysterious, handsome young man, she's intrigued. Surprisingly, he doesn't seem to know who she or her family is. And even more surprisingly, he playfully refuses to divulge his name. Emily enjoys her secret flirtation with "Mr. Nobody" until he ends up dead in her family's pond. Stricken with guilt, Emily sets out to discover who this enigmatic stranger was before he's condemned to be buried in an anonymous grave. Her investigation takes her deep into town secrets, a possible blossoming romance, and deadly danger.

Nobody's Secret is a curious book about a curious mystery investigated by an even more curious girl. This book itself is intriguing, a fictional account of a young Emily Dickinson, a mysterious encounter with a stranger, and her investigation into the trouble that befalls him.

What highlights this book is Emily Dickinson herself, her intelligence, quick wit, and inquisitive character. Those who have studied her poetry know one side of her, but this introduces readers to a wholly different side, a side that was there during her formative teenage years in Amherst. The author's research and attention to detail is meticulous, her interest and passion towards Dickinson, her life, and her poetry is clear.

As a whole, the book is an intriguing undertaking. There's no proof that Emily Dickinson ever helped uncover a crime and solve a mystery when she was young, but what if she did? Where would her mind, filled with questions about the world, about people, about life and death, take her if someone truly did turn up dead in front of her home? Every character she comes across, outside of her family, has a secret connected to the man's death, and her investigation becomes an investigation of character as well.

Emily seems to find a kindred soul in Mr. Nobody. Someone who saw the world as something filled with possibilities. When he is found dead, she seems to be the only person who cares, and with her own unconventional passion and determination, she sets out to discover his secrets. I found this to be a clever imagining of a moment in time in a famous poet's life and would suggest it to readers of American history, mystery, and Emily Dickinson.

(I acquired an advance copy of this book at ALA Midwinter.)

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