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Nobody's Secret Hardcover – April 30, 2013

23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 7-10-When 15-year-old Emily Dickinson meets and flirts with a handsome stranger, she feels the first flicker of romance. Then the young man is found dead in her family's pond, and the budding poet is sure that he was a victim of foul play. Determined to see that justice is done, she and her younger sister, Vinnie, investigate and discover that he is James Wentworth, heir to a fortune from which his aunt and uncle have defrauded him. Suspecting murder, Emily sets out to solve the case, almost becoming a victim herself. Life in 1845 small-town Massachusetts is painstakingly portrayed throughout this suspenseful tale. Emily is extremely well drawn, revealing her enthusiasm for and intense curiosity about the smallest of life's details, while minor characters have just enough depth to provoke interest. The fast-moving plot makes this a well-crafted page-turner. The dialogue rings true, both to the historical time and to the chronological ages and social status of the characters. The full text of "I'm Nobody," as well as quotes from other poems, not only focus readers' thoughts but also provide an easy introduction to the recluse's poetry. The author's note explains which of the novel's details are based on fact. MacColl once again brings a strong female protagonist to life, revealing pertinent and interesting information about a literary figure.-Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence, RIα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

In 1845, Emily Dickinson encounters a handsome young man she has never seen before in a field near Amherst, where her family is well known. Meeting someone she doesn’t know is a rare treat for the young Emily, and rather than exchange names, the two playfully refer to each other as Mr. and Miss Nobody. Emily does learn that Mr. Nobody is in town to resolve some family business, but a few days later, she is shocked when Mr. Nobody is found dead in the pond next to her family home. With only a few clues to work from, she tries to unravel the mystery behind Mr. Nobody’s death. MacColl, whose previous novels imagined the young lives of famous women, including Queen Victoria (Prisoners in the Palace, 2010), builds from Dickinson’s famous poem, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?,” in this imaginative take on the young poet. Several other Dickinson poems are skillfully woven in throughout the novel, which suggests itself easily for both classroom connections and personal reading. Grades 6-10. --Eve Gaus

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 18 years
  • Grade Level: 7 - 12
  • Lexile Measure: 640L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 241 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (April 30, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1452108609
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452108605
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,034,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michaela attended Vassar College and Yale University. She earned degrees in multi-disciplinary history. Unfortunately, it took her 20 years before she realized she was learning how to write historical fiction. Her favorite stories are the ones she finds about the childhood experiences of famous people. What happened that helped them to be great? Michaela has two daughters so she's hoping to identify those moments firsthand. Her books include Prisoners in the Palace (2010) about a teenaged Victoria, on the verge of becoming Queen and Promise the Night (2011) about Beryl Markham's childhood in Africa. Her literary mysteries include Nobody's Secret (featuring Emily Dickinson) and Always Emily (with the Bronte sisters). She and her family live in Connecticut.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By ReadMyBreathAway on May 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
When I saw this one I was immediately interested. "A novel of intrigue and romance", says the cover; with a young Emily Dickinson and a murder mystery right at the middle? Definitely sounded like something I wanted to read! While I wouldn't really call it a novel of romance, there was intrigue for sure, and I loved seeing Emily Dickinson as such a curious and creative young adult.

I thought young Emily was a wonderful character and the picture painted of her seems like I was reading about the real woman. All of the quirks and curiosities you would expect a budding young poet to have, Emily displays naturally and eagerly. I loved how determined she was to solve the murder despite all the resistance she meets along the way. She's very intelligent and creative, and is ahead of her time, which really just made me root for her. As for the story, I thought the mystery was set up very well and kept me in the dark just long enough that I was trying to solve it right alongside Emily. It enjoyed seeing how all the side characters contributed to the journey Emily went through to fight for what she believed was right (as well as satisfying her own curiosity, of course).

What I found really interesting about this one is the way the historical setting was woven in through the characters. It wasn't an in-your-face kind of historical setting, but rather it came through in the actions and attitudes of the people. Most especially, it came from Emily's mother. That woman is so completely of her time that I found her a little infuriating. She is what women were expected to be: a fragile home-maker and mother, and she expected her daughters to be just the same way. Emily, of course, wants so much more than that for herself. She can't stand the dull chores or being confined to the house.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sabrina on May 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Short and Sweet:
Nobody's Secret was sweet and wonderful for a murder mystery. I loved the imagination of the author concerning Emily Dickinson and the poetry mixed through out. I felt like I was reading a historical Veronica Mars episode and I want to kiss Michaela MacColl's face for writing this wonderful book. :)

To Elaborate....
The story begins with Emily laying in a field of wildflowers hoping a bee will land on her nose.... just to experience something different. After a few moments she hears footsteps approaching and thinking it is her mother or sister coming to bring her back to her chores she closes her eyes and wills herself to be invisible. However, when she opens her eyes she meets the curious Mr. Nobody who engages in (extremely adorable) conversation with her. He appreciates her quirkiness where everyone else tries to shape her into a 'proper' young lady.

Sadly, after a few days he is found, presumably drowned, in her family's pond. Since Emily had never learned his name, she becomes determined to solve the mystery of who "Mr. Nobody" was. However, along the way she discovers that someone doesn't want Mr. Nobody to be identified. More determined than ever, Emily slowly discovers the many secrets of Mr. Nobody including his identity. :)

Just a cool, cool book through and through. LOVE.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia Hudson on May 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
A young Emily Dickinson is daydreaming in the woods near her home when a handsome young man interrupts. She's never seen him before, yet when she asks his name he tells her he's nobody. The air of mystery deepens when she sees him in town and he still won't say who he is or why he's visiting Amherst, but he hints at family crimes. The next day Mr. Nobody ends up dead in her family's pond, and Emily suspects foul play. She sets out to discover who Mr. Nobody is and why he died.

Nobody's Secret by Michaela MacColl is part mystery, part historical fiction and entirely enjoyable. MacColl paints a picture of the teen poet as headstrong, always looking for ways to avoid housework, curious and tenacious. She knows what's expected of girls in her world, yet she's not afraid to push society's rules.

MacColl meticulously researches the subjects of her historical fiction--in other books a young Queen Victoria in England and aviatrix Beryl Markham--and the details she discovers about her characters helps her create nuanced portraits that make them human. She weaves facts about Emily and the Dickinson family into her story easily, and helps readers see what everyday life for her may have been like while keeping the mystery moving along.

As Emily works to solve the mystery of Mr. Nobody's death, she makes poetic notes about her discoveries, and it's fun for readers to imagine her creating full poems from those notes. She also reads a contemporary poet, Walt Whitman, and focuses on the natural world around her.

Nobody's Secret is fun to read and can generate discussion and activities for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 12 and up. Activities include reading Emily Dickinson's poetry, learning more about her life in Amherst and writing poetry in her style.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Emily Rachelle on August 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This was a really nice book. I've always loved Emily Dickinson's poetry and the days before I read a variety of genres were filled with mysteries like these. Every chapter started with some lines by Emily that really fit the tone of that chapter. The emotions were generally very realistic - the laughing flirtation with Mr. Nobody, the mixed dread and odd curiosity of death, the combination of excitement and fear found in investigating a crime. The mystery itself was very well-written, complete with the proper balance of clues, secrets, suspects, and red herrings.

Nobody's Secret, I'd have to say, is really more of a middle grade than a young adult title, although the target audience seems to be right in between the two. The writing style and level of description were in no way lacking, but were younger than those of many books targeted at my age range. However, the historical period this book is set in shines through in the word choices and especially the dialogue, making this a more challenging read for such younger readers.

Honestly, I have no reason not to give this book five stars... but I don't feel like it really earned all five, either. It was a great book with great writing, well-developed characters, an awesome mystery - everything it needed, really. But it didn't give me any wow moments. I never found myself doubling over with laughter or gasping with horror or misting up and almost-crying like I do with all my favorite books. So while this book is wonderful, it just didn't pack a big enough punch for five stars.

I give this book four stars, and recommend it for young poets and Emily Dickinson fans like myself.

I received this book for free from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.
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