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Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things Hardcover – October 2, 2012
From School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-Claire and her father have recently moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, in the hope of starting a new life and putting the tragic events of the past behind them. Claire is grieving the death of her mother and the loss of her friend who went missing without a trace and is having trouble moving on. She finds comfort in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and senses her mother's presence in the Dickinson house museum, especially by putting on Emily's dress. When she is discovered wearing it, she is forced to run, leading to an adventure that helps her work through her grief, solve the mystery of her missing friend, and begin to look to the future. Written in first person, the story integrates the poetry of Emily Dickinson with the writings of the main character, which leads to a novel that is lyrical and refreshing in spite of the tragic events. Missing persons and suicide are dealt with in a delicate way, allowing readers to enjoy the action and suspense. Older, more advanced readers will appreciate the imagery, irony, and wit as well.-Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SDα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* Claire thinks it is grotesque that Emily Dickinson’s dress is displayed at the poet’s homestead museum in Amherst. But she feels close to her deceased mother there, and she sneaks into the museum at night to write sparse lines, often reflecting on her mother’s suicide. Sometimes she even puts on the dress. Tate, a former student teacher of Claire’s who is attuned to her pain, interrupts her ritual one night, and when the alarm sounds, they flee with the dress. That’s how Tate begins acting as Claire’s protector—but he slowly and innocently grows to be much more as Claire shares with him what else is missing. Amherst is Claire’s second senior year, her first having been disrupted by her best friend Richy’s disappearance, for which Claire was a person of interest. It’s what is missing from this superb debut novel that makes it so rich. Like Dickinson’s poems, the first-person narration doesn’t worry about stage direction or backstory, preferring to highlight poignant moments that elicit emotion or deepen character, and challenging the reader to fill in the blanks and read between the lines of Claire’s writing, conversations, and musings. What remains at the end is a complete portrait of loss, longing, redemption, and love. Grades 9-12. --Heather Booth
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A brilliant debut by Kathryn Burak that will appeal to a wide range of readers.
Fans of Emily Dickinson may find some joy in it while those like myself, who barely remembered reading her work in high school, will completely miss all the seemingly obvious references to her poetry. In a nutshell, Claire is very upset because her mother committed suicide and left her to deal with finding the body. She didn’t deal very well, and is now in Amherst, Massachusetts (former home of Emily Dickinson) with her father hoping to finish up her second attempt at her senior year of high school. Claire finds herself drawn to the Emily Dickinson Museum, and spends her evenings sneaking into it.
While wearing Emily’s priceless dress, she is startled out of her reverie by Tate, her English student teacher. The two of them run out of the Museum, into the night, then spend the rest of the book trying to figure out how to return the dress. Hmmm. Has anyone ever heard of the U.S. Post Office? But, I digress…
Intermingled with what to do with the missing dress is the mystery of how Claire’s former best friend Richy disappeared. Clues seem to fall into place, but between all that was going on with Claire’s rambling thoughts, Emily’s poetry, Claire’s poetry, as well as Tate’s elusiveness, I had rapidly lost interest.
So, I’ll leave it up to you readers to see if you want to Read it or Not. I should have Not.
A lot of what made this book such a wonderful read was Claire's first person narrative. The story is intertwined with bits of her poetry and it gives the reader a lot of insight into Claire's thoughts and feelings, which really pulled me into Claire's head. The pain and upheaval that Claire has experienced over the last few years has almost convinced her that Emily Dickinson had it right when she became a recluse I think that using Emily as a sort of touchstone for pain was a coping mechanism for Claire and one that was not only understandable, but very touching, as well. As Tate becomes involved in her life, and the with the issue of the dress, Claire seems to wake up to the fact that she is not as alone as she imagined. This part of the story was very well done because the deep friendship that develops between Claire and Tate does not overpower the rest of the story. Everyone around her is in need of some sort of healing and Claire is finally able to reach out and help in her own way, which was sort of the journey within the dress, so to speak. Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things was an emotional story told with a unique and enjoyable narrative voice that fulfilled my love for interesting stories and lyrical storytelling.