Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Nobody's Secret by Michaela MacColl

[description from goodreads]

One day, fifteen-year-old Emily Dickinson meets a mysterious, handsome young man. 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. She's stricken with guilt. Only Emily can 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. Exquisitely written and meticulously researched, this novel celebrates Emily Dickinson's intellect and spunk in a page-turner of a book that will excite fans of mystery, romance, and poetry alike.


I'm very much into retellings of traditional stories, but I have to say my familiarity with "prequel" tales of sorts isn't as expansive. I'm usually open to them, though, especially when they involve things I like, as is the case with Nobody's Secret, which imagines a story about teenage Emily Dickinson and the inspiration for her "I'm Nobody! Who are you?" poem. A fun premise, though, in reality, I don't think it's necessarily vital for this to be an Emily Dickinson tale. 

It's a short novel, but it still takes a bit of time to get to the murder mystery regarding Mr. Nobody. For once, I actually didn't mind the delay, as it gave time for Mr. Nobody to actually appear before his death. It was nice to get to see him and Emily interact directly, since their encounters were filled with enough fun and flirtation to make me see why Emily would be invested in figuring out why he died. I also appreciate that her interest was based more on friendship than romantic love, since it would have been easy to say that Emily sought answers because she was in love with the man. Plus, the emphasis on friendship kept it a bit more lighthearted, which was nice since death is so prevalent in the story. Combined with the many different people and places Emily encounters on her search, it's actually a rather fun mystery, one that's not too difficult to solve but still interesting because of all the adventure so deeply rooted in history. 

One thing that hindered my enjoyment of this book, though, is that I'm not sure how essential the fact that it's Emily Dickinson, not just any Emily, is to the story. The real Emily's hometown and family comes into play, and her poetic side is brought up numerous times, which was a cool, more subtle bonus. However, perhaps it's just because I don't know too much about the real Emily Dickinson's personality beyond the fact that she turned into a hermit eventually, but I don't really see a big connection between this version of Emily and the real one. It could also be my obsession with historical accuracy, but I don't know, Nobody's Secret's Emily seemed like she could have been any Emily. Maybe that's the point, in which case, that's super cool, but I'm cynical so most everything bothers me.

Nobody's Secret is a solid story, rich in the history of the setting if not the true history of Emily Dickinson, with a nice balance between adventure and darkness despite the fact that its mystery is not too difficult to solve. 

Book details: Chronicle/Hardcover/$16.99

Source: sent by publisher for review


  1. Nice review. I think I need to pass on this book. Thanks for your thoughts about this book.

    Ann@Blogging E-books

  2. I have no idea if I'm going to pick this up or not, but the premise seems interesting. I'm also on an Emily Dickinson kick, so who knows.

  3. I really liked how her poetry was incorporated into the chapter titles-I tend to find poetry intimidating but I feel like hers might be more accessible or at least that's the impression I had after reading this.