From Goodreads: When high school senior Paul Wagoner walks into his school library with a stolen gun, he threatens his girlfriend Emily Beam, then takes his own life. In the wake of the tragedy, an angry and guilt-ridden Emily is shipped off to boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she encounters a ghostly presence who shares her name. The spirit of Emily Dickinson and two quirky girls offer helping hands, but it is up to Emily to heal her own damaged self.
This inventive story, told in verse and in prose, paints the aftermath of tragedy as a landscape where there is good behind the bad, hope inside the despair, and springtime under the snow.
If you’re not ready for it, and maybe even if you are, this novel will jar your senses. Written in third person limited, what jars readers is that it’s in present tense as opposed to past, like most third person narratives. Thus, the story is happening as you read it, making it read in a most discomforting manner, even though it makes perfect sense. I’ve read very few novels that employ this writing technique, and I think this is one of the reasons that it feels so off—it’s not done nearly enough for it so sound normal. Because of this, it keeps readers on their toes, but I constantly found myself analyzing the writing style and, therefore, focusing less on the story itself, which was not my intention. While parts of it flow very well, others become disjointed and choppy, and I really feel this has to do with it being in present tense. And though I sometimes enjoyed it, most often I found myself wishing it was written in past tense so I could just melt into the story.
Writing style aside, I really felt for Emily in this novel; she made some choices that, on the outside seem normal, choices you and I would make, but that ultimately change her entire future due to the reaction of her (ex)boyfriend, Paul. In all truth, no one could have known he would go off the deep end, and it isn’t her fault he makes the choices he does, but ultimately, one bad choice leads to another, and this is how we find Emily when the story begins.
Sent to boarding school to get away from is all, Emily is closed off and recluse, but pours her heart out through poetry–and the poems are quite good. Though I’m not necessarily a fan of poetry, I really enjoyed how Hubbard joined both prose and poetry together to bring about the essence of this story, even though the present tense narration drove me a bit insane. If you’re looking for something completely different, I highly suggest picking this one up. Three stars.