On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to review Michaela MacColl‘s Nobody’s Secret, a YA historical novel that images what might have have happened if a fifteen-year-old Emily Dickinson had found her beau dead in her family’s pond. I’m thrilled to have the author stop by today with the following guest post about the importance of a young woman’s reputation in the 1840s and how MacColl’s version of Dickinson rebels, slightly, from what is expected of her.
In the 1840s, in a small New England town, any girl would have lived a circumscribed life. Emily Dickinson’s family had more education and money than most. But with a life of relative ease came more expectations and restrictions for their daughters.
Emily was well known in town. Her father was important. Any mistakes she made in deportment would soon be reported to her mother. There is very little documentary evidence that Emily resented these restrictions as a teen, but after I read her poems and letters it was clear that she chafed at these artificial constraints. As an adult, she rebelled by withdrawing. Rather than playing the social game of teas and socials, she stayed home and found an intellectual freedom in her letters and poetry. But what would she have done as a teen?
In Nobody’s Secret, Emily meets a boy. He’s in town on mysterious business and he doesn’t want to tell her his name. She could never bring him home! But he’s terrific and he appreciates Emily’s quirkier qualities. When he shows up floating face first in the family pond, Emily has a lot of incentive to find justice for him.
In the course of the book she does a lot of things that a young woman of her time and position should not do. She checks out the corpse, she investigates, she trespasses, sneaks out at night and even crashes a funeral. While I think Emily always had this rebellious streak in her – she needs a good enough reason to risk her reputation and her mother’s disappointment. Mr. Nobody gives her plenty of reason.
One of my favorite poems of hers shows this motivation so clearly – it breaks your heart:
If anybody’s friend be dead,
It ‘s sharpest of the theme
The thinking how they walked alive,
At such and such a time.
- Emily Dickinson
Buy Nobody’s Secret
Special Price: $12.40 (Regular price: $16.99)
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Reviewer: Melissa on May 21, 2013
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
On a day when fifteen-year-old Emily Dickinson is doing everything she can to avoid helping with the laundry, she meets a young man who is as mysterious as he is handsome. In a town where everyone seems to know who she or her family is, she’s surprised to realize that he not only doesn’t know who she is, but also he playfully evades telling her who he is. Readers of Nobody’s Secret by Michaela MacColl and Emily herself both enjoy the brief and clandestine flirtation that she has with Mr. “Nobody” until he’s found dead in the pond on her family’s property. Can Emily discover who he is before he’s condemned to an unmarked pauper’s grave? The secrets of Amherst, a blossoming romance, and danger wait at every turn in this well-researched YA mystery novel that celebrates the intellect and attitude of a beloved American poet while readers find themselves unable to put it down.
While no one ever wants to be able to predict where a story is going from the first page, it’s even more imperative that a mystery novel’s plot twists aren’t obvious. With Nobody’s Secret, MacColl does one better: she makes you so certain one thing is going to happen that you keep reading to prove you’re right, only to find that you weren’t. Of course, MacColl leaves clues for Emily and the reader to pick up all along, which will lead her characters and eventually, the reader to the ultimate, whodunit answer. Teens, who like either mystery or historical novels, will appreciate this book.
One of my favorite parts about this novel, other than the fact it wasn’t predictable, is how MacColl uses Emily Dickinson’s poetry in order to illuminate who she might have been as a teenager. She prefaces each chapter with a line or two from a poem, which corresponds with its theme and is the perfect way to give teens an interest in reading each poem in their entirety. Moreover, I noticed that at times, the language she uses either as part of Emily’s thoughts or the dialog that she has with Mr. Nobody, for example, mirrors one another, demonstrating for the reader that there is a connection between the authorial voice in Dickinson’s poetry and who she may have been as a teen. Why do I say may have been rather than how she was? Well, all of the historical information available suggests that the real Emily never began writing poetry until her 20s, and yet, the means by which MacColl inserts her poetry into the context of Nobody’s Secret are not only believable, but also give the reader an opportunity to connect with Dickinson’s writing in a way that might have escaped them before. If readers have even a small inkling that the character of this poet from the 19th century might have felt some of the same things as they do, then perhaps they will see a kinship with them where before their was only a separation of time and culture.
For those who are only looking for a pure, by-the-historical-record-kind of read, Nobody’s Secret may disappoint. However, I suspect that many more teen and adult readers of YA will appreciate MacColl’s interpretation of Emily Dickinson and love exploring what may have happened if she ever had a crush on an older boy, who winds up dead a few days after she meets him. Pick up a copy today and get ready to immerse yourself in this fun story.
Buy Nobody’s Secret today and save 27% off the regular price!
On Thursday, April 25, 2013, Kobo launched what they’re calling a “re-imagined” eReader: the Kobo Aura HD. It’s being marketed as “the only premium eReader on the market,” offering an enhanced eReading experience, which improves the onscreen reading clarity by 20% from that of any other HD eReader. More importantly, it’s been designed specifically for avid readers. On the same day that it was launched, I began reading my first eBook on this very same device, which was given to me by Kobo in exchange for my honest opinion of it. Does it live up to the hype? Keep reading this eReader review to see if it’s worth picking up one for yourself or adding it your wish list for an upcoming gift opportunity.
Now, the Kobo Aura HD isn’t my first experience with a dedicated eReading device. Before it died last summer, I’d been using a Sony eReader Pocket Edition for a few years, which doesn’t have touch screen technology. Since December 2012, I’ve been regularly reading for a Kobo Mini, which like this new option, does. I happen to enjoy the Kobo Mini with its cute size and soft body texture, but the Aura HD is a cut above any other eReading experience I’ve had while reading a book from my Kobo Library. Many eInk eReaders have an obvious delay when you turn the “page” until the new page appears, usually with an accompanying flash on the screen that is semi-disruptive. With the Aura HD, however, you move from page to page without any of the typical lag time of other eReaders. I guess that has something to do with the speed of the 1 Ghz processor with which it’s equipped, so while you might get used to a slower processing time of other products and/or settle for physical copies to avoid the annoyance, you can rest assured that this time, the difference between reading a book and an eBook won’t be noticeable.
One aspect of this eReader that is highlighted in the product literature is just how much crisper the text looks on the Kobo Aura HD screen than it does on any other eReader available as of March 2013. The truth is that with my pretty excellent vision, I didn’t notice much of a difference between my other eInk technology experiences and this one…at first. It was easy to read, and it didn’t strain my eyes in normal lighting conditions, but if I hadn’t compared the screen to my other eReader, I wouldn’t have thought much of it. But then I did, and I quickly realized my mistake.
First, I noticed that the quality of the cover image was like night and day. Image shading is of the highest quality without any obvious gradations between one level of grey and the next and complicated images, such as those details on the cover of Kiera Cass’ The Elite, are rendered beautifully. Since you don’t spend much time on the cover, this might not seem like a big deal. However, I did my own side-by-side comparison between the text clarity on both the Kobo Mini and the Kobo Aura HD and the results are worth noting. Not only are the letters crisper, whether you select a smaller or larger sized font on the screen, but also they seem to be a darker shade of black with thicker lines making up each of the letters. If you worry that reading on a device will cause more eyestrain than a physical book, then you don’t need to worry anymore, and if you tend to seek out larger print books, then a quick adjustment makes your favorite eBook any size that you want the letters to be. Can’t say the same about a standard book from the local bookstore or library.
So now you know what I think about this eReader in normal conditions, but what about in low light conditions? With most other eReaders, you have to keep either the main light on while reading or stop reading when the lights go out. (Yes, there are some models that have a light function, but none of the one’s that I’ve ever tried do.) Now that I have this new eReader, I no longer have to worry that I’m keeping my significant other awake when I want to read well into the night, move into another room to let him sleep, or use the flashlight app on my iPhone while also holding the book or eBook I’m reading, which can be kind of cumbersome and eats up my iPhone’s battery life pretty quickly. (Yes, I’ve actually done all three of these things when I couldn’t put a book down in the past. None of which were ideal.) Moreover, you can adjust the amount of light emitted from the screen, so you can read easily in a pitch-black room or even when the sun has just begun setting and you just want to finish one more chapter before you turn on the light.
Finally, for those of you who want to make your reading life more social or might want to put the book down without letting go of this eReader, the Kobo Aura HD does the trick. You can turn on a function that automatically shares your reading life on your Facebook profile, surf the web on it’s black and white web browser, or play any one of a few different preloaded games. Personally, I haven’t tried any of these aspects, so I can’t comment on them, but you probably want to know that they’re there if you need them.
Clearly, there are a lot of positives about the Kobo Aura HD, and overall, I do think it’s worth not only the hype, but also the price. That said, there is one negative that I’ve experienced since trying it out. As a book blogger, I sometimes receive eBooks rather than physical copies for review. While the Kobo Aura HD supports EPub, PDF, and even DRM EPub or PDF files if you authorize Adobe Digital Editions and your device, it doesn’t mean that all of these files will run as well as a book you bought via KoboBooks.com. In fact, I recently had to resort to reading a PDF on my computer via Adobe Digital Editions because it’s heavy design and image based aspects made the Kobo Aura HD slow down to a snail’s pace. Perhaps EPub files from other sites or PDFs that aren’t as image dependent in the design will work better for you though.
All in all, I have to say that I’m happy to have a Kobo Aura HD now, and I bet that despite the issue I had with one PDF, you will, too.
Buy a Kobo Aura HD today!