Saturday, August 20, 2011
The Trouble With Emily Dickinson by Lindsey D'Arcangelo
Publisher: Alpha World Press
Josephine (JJ) Jenkins is an excellent student at the private Sampson Academy where she doesn't exactly fit in. She's a secret poet, but also quite obviously a lesbian, which successfully bars her from being one of the "in crowd.” This doesn't concern her until she discovers that she has been assigned to tutor "the" most popular girl on campus Kendal McCarthy, campus beauty, cheerleader, leader of the "in crowd" and straight as an arrow...supposedly.
Kendal is normally a good student, but poetry and how to interpret it are totally beyond her abilities. She'll do anything to pass English, including spending time in the library with JJ. As the two girls work together, they build a friendship and discover they have more in common than either thought possible. Kendal tries to help JJ gain the confidence to overcome her stage fright and bring her poetry into the open, while JJ discovers, to her horror, that she's falling hard for a girl she believes she can never have. Both girls begin to try the patience of their respective friends who can't understand why they want to spend so much time together. Confusion reigns as the girls begin to realize that they are developing more than a friendship and neither of them is sure she can deal with the situation.
The Trouble with Emily Dickinson is a humorous, yet tender, look at young love and the difficulty a teenager has dealing with being so "different" from her peers. Much of what the girls go through will strike familiar chords with women who have already passed through those experiences. It's a coming out story that can hold the attention of older readers as well as young. It has the added bonus of containing a character who keeps the story light when it could bog down in teen angst.
Queenie McBride is JJ's loyal friend and an outrageously out lesbian way beyond her years in experience and attitude. As the heir in an old Virginia family, she delights in driving her parents crazy with her antics and her wild spending sprees. She may seem superficial, but her devotion to JJ is absolute and she is the first to realize that her friend may be setting herself up for a great disappointment. Everyone will wish she had a friend like Queenie.
Stories about teenagers might not appeal to older readers, but they should give this one a chance. If the reader forgets the girls' ages, then The Trouble With Emily Dickinson becomes a story about discovery, friendship and self realization. It only takes a few hours to read it and you might find it's worth it.