This story follows Emilie Day as she leaves the comfort of homeschooling to attend the local public high school. Bracing for the worst, Emilie finds that between her new friend Ayla and the cute basketball star Chatham; she might actually be able to be happy here. Except for one thing: no one knows about her epilepsy.
McCall Hoyle paints a vivid picture of high school life, from the quirky English teacher to the class clown that always has something to say. If you don’t laugh and cry your way through this book, I don’t quite know what to tell you. I experienced every emotion from frustration to sadness to joy.
Emilie is a character that you feel for. Nothing is going her way, and getting dumped off at a new school tops it all off. Throughout the book, I could relate to her reluctance to put herself out there. We fear that if people knew the real us, they wouldn’t accept us or like us. On a smaller scale, this book is about her trying to find her way in high school life. However, the more important story is her journey to accept who she is and learn how to live.
I loved how this Emilie’s story was loosely based the life of Emily Dickinson. Emilie and Chatham work on an English project about Emily Dickinson, and each chapter begins with a quote from one of her poems. Emily Dickinson was a lifelong recluse, unable to conquer whatever demons haunted her. The Emilie in this story has her share of demons as well, but she ends up reacting very differently. The key: those people in her life that loved and challenged her. This story beautifully illustrates the importance of having or finding family and friends that love you for who you are but aren’t afraid to push you to become someone even better.
This story is also a testament to the struggle those with disabilities face that most of us know nothing about. As this story points out, learning to live a full life can be very difficult if you have a disability that restricts your freedom and creates fear. I highly suggest reading this story to not only appreciate Emilie’s resilience, but also to see how those around her either support or ridicule her.
The character of Chatham is what I liked least in the story. He’s way too perfect. Athletic, cute, hilarious, and kind? The only thing he isn’t good at is English (but he’s almost an A student with minimal tutoring). Don’t get me wrong, incredible people like Chatham exist—but they still have flaws of some kind. Chatham’s lack of flaws made him feel less than real. Hoyle could have made him, and by extension the story, come alive even more had she shown us Chatham’s flaws. Any human has them, so characters without them lack the depth they could otherwise achieve.
The character of Chatham aside, this is a touching book that explores a very real issue many of us face. If you don’t mind a book with a cliché dream boyfriend, by all means pick up a copy and enjoy Emilie’s journey.