Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: Nobody's Secret

Nobody's Secret
By Michaela MacColl
Expected publication April 30, 2013 by Chronicle Books

Young Emily Dickinson meets a mysterious and handsome young man who she feels an instant connection with. Their flirtation is secret and playful, and "Mr. Nobody" refuses to divulge his true identity. Then, unthinkably, he shows up dead in the Dickinson family pond. Emily believes it her duty to uncover the truth behind his death, no matter what risks she'll have to take.

So, I've never read MacColl before, though I've been intrigued by the blurb for Prisoners in the Palace and have been meaning to get around to it. I requested this new title because I'm a fan of historical fiction, and I enjoy authors who take well-known characters or historical figures and play with them. I don't know terribly much about Emily Dickinson, but I thought it would be interesting to see how MacColl presents her. Unfortunately, this book is mostly just mediocre for me. I do love Emily's character - she's a spirited young woman who is willing to do unpopular and unladylike things in her pursuit of truth. However, my adoration of her spirit is tempered by the knowledge that she essentially became a hermit; it just seems a disappointing end for the young woman encountered in these pages. I enjoyed the mystery in this book - I like how Emily puzzled out the bits and pieces by persistence and determination. It's never terribly exciting, though, and I wonder if teen readers will be engaged enough in the story to follow it through to the end. I can see fans of Dickinson's poetry enjoying this take on the reclusive poet's life, though, of course, it is fictional. MacColl provides an author's note after the novel's conclusion to help readers sort the fact from fiction. Ultimately, I just didn't find this terribly compelling. A middle of the road read for me.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.

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