Friday, 14 June 2013

Review: Nobody's Secret by Michaela MacColl

Title: Nobody's Secret
Author: Michaela MacColl
Release date: April 30th 2013
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Pages: 231
Source: Author

It's 1845, and for fifteen-year-old Emily Dickinson, every day follows the same pattern: 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 turns 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, blossoming romance, and deadly danger.

Nobody's Secret is a must-read for all historical fiction lovers. It's captivating and pretty much unputdownable. I loved how Michaela MacColl told a partly-fiction partly-true story of the famous poet Emily Dickinson. The author note at the end tells you exactly what was true and what was made up for the story. The plot, of course, is entirely fiction. The mystery woven between the plot was great, and reminiscent of the countless mystery novels I used to read as a kid. I loved it!

When Emily is out trying to get a reprieve from the endless amount of chores she has, she meets a young stranger who has no idea who she is. And who she is is pretty important, because the Dickinson family founded Amherst College, and is very prestigious. Emily and "Mr. Nobody", as she calls him, understand each other on a level that no one else does, and Emily finds herself really liking this guy. Imagine her shock when she finds out he's the body she found floating face-down in her family pond. She takes it upon herself to find out exactly who he was, and her search leads her to some deeply guarded secrets.

It was so pleasurable to read about Emily's life. I don't know much about the poet, but apparently her personality was very similar to the Emily in this novel, so I definitely need to search her up now. I loved how Emily creates beautiful poetry out of little mundane things she experiences. I'm no poetry buff, but this really is some great poetry. All the lines at the beginning of each chapter are from her actual published poems, and I found it amazing how Michaela could find lines relating to each chapter of her novel. Emily has a wild spirit, and can't stand being cooped up at home. So she tries to get out in every way possible. Emily has to balance who she really is and who she's supposed to be in front of her parents, and that seems really tough in my opinion. I loved her strong will and her intelligent mind. It really is beautiful to see how Emily uncovers the mystery of Mr. Nobody.

Emily has a little sister, Vinnie, who is basically the opposite of her. She's a few years younger, extremely pretty, and conforms to the social norms of girls in that time. But her loyalty towards Emily is admirable. Vinnie volunteers to help Emily when she finds out what Emily is trying to do, and she's very earnest about it. I quite liked her character, too. Mr. Nobody's identity will remain anonymous in this review, of course, since I don't want to give anything away. We didn't get to see much of him, but what I saw, I definitely liked. He's different from the people Emily usually encounters, and he's a total enigma. Slowly, as Emily finds out who he was, we get to know more about him. And how I wish he was still alive by the end! I grew to like him more as the novel progressed, but of course he was already dead.

Nobody's Secret is written beautifully, and I feel that Michaela really captured the essence of the nineteenth century. This is a really enjoyable novel, with a great and spunky protagonist. There's a lot of suspense, and danger too. It's very well-paced, and there was never a dull moment. This one is a real page-turner! All in all, I really liked this one. Especially the mystery part. I just wish we could have known Mr. Nobody for a little but longer! But maybe that would have made me miss him all the more, and I wouldn't want that. I think. Anyway, the writing in this book is incredible, especially the end. It might even squeeze some tears out of you!

*Thank you to Michaela MacColl for providing a copy for review*

Rating: 4/5

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