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Nobody's Secret by Michaela MacColl

Nobody's Secret (edition 2013)

by Michaela MacColl

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7122168,809 (3.88)5
Title:Nobody's Secret
Authors:Michaela MacColl
Info:San Francisco, Calif. : Chronicle Books, 2013.
Collections:Your library, Mysteries, JP/JF/YA
Tags:Emily Dickinson, mystery, 1845, Amherst, 13 in 13, ER

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Nobody's Secret by Michaela MacColl




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I won Nobody’s Secret as an ARC on Goodreads.

Nobody’s Secret is a rich step into the past. Following a fictitious version of Emily Dickinson’s life, the reader experiences Amherst in 1845 through young Dickinson’s eyes while she investigates the murder of Mr. Nobody.

The story is as refreshing as Miss Dickinson’s refusal to live by the social norms placed on her by society. She’s feisty, driven, and prefers to spend time exploring nature and writing poetry instead of cooking and doing chores.

The novel boasts “A Story of Intrigue and Romance,” and it doesn’t disappoint. Let me be clear when I say that this is not a bodice ripper. Do not expect pages and pages of salacious sexual encounters—this book is appropriate for the time period as well as Emily’s age, which is fifteen. The romance comes from the mystery of Mr. Nobody, the only person who Emily feels might truly understand her. When he turns up dead in her family’s pond, there’s nothing left for Emily to do but investigate and seek justice, which she does, quite successfully.

Michaela MacColl eases gently into 1845, skipping the drawn out descriptions. There are enough carriages, proper language, and etiquette to satisfy the critical reader, all evidence of MacColl’s careful research. The use of Emily’s work is fantastic; you can hear the gears in her head turning as she transforms her experiences into lines of poetry. MacColl uses facts from Emily’s home life to make the characters relatable as well as believable. The story is well-crafted, the writing easy to follow.

Overall, Nobody’s Secret is a captivating read and a pleasant diversion from the usual angst-riddled young adult novel.
( )
  kacimari | Apr 4, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A very interesting book. I would say it was appropriate for middle school and up. I enjoyed the mystery although I would have also enjoyed a little more of the love story before the main death occurred. ( )
  LisaMP | Nov 5, 2013 |
A loving and fascinating tribute to young Emily Dickinson, featuring lines from her poems for each chapter heading and an imaginative, but realistic plot. MacColl's novel inspired me to learn more about Dickinson. ( )
  bookwren | Oct 3, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Nobody's Secret has an interesting premise: imagine Emily Dickinson turned teen detective! The fifteen-year-old incipient poet meets a mysterious and well-dressed man who makes mysteriously flirtatious small-talk and shortly afterwards dies--very mysteriously. In between household chores and social duties, Emily interviews all pertinent townsfolk, intent on getting to the bottom of three questions: Who was the man? Why was he floating in the pond, when he didn't appear to have drowned? What on earth would account for his sudden sartorial misadventures?

My impressions of Nobody's Secret are mixed, partly because I'm not sure of the audience. Marketing suggests this is a young adult novel (bolstered by my library's cataloging it as such), and it is set when Emily Dickinson was fifteen. However, for a murder mystery, the stakes feel very low, and the character interactions better suit a middle grade audience, in my opinion. Though Dickinson's poetry was sprinkled throughout, it felt like an add-on, rather than integral to the plot or even particularly well related to it.

Perhaps I had higher hopes for this story, as I do love Dickinson's poetry and I very much enjoyed MacColl's Prisoners in the Palace, but nevertheless the characters themselves are quite nicely drawn, if sometimes the minor ones feel a little archetypal. Some of the questions are resolved very obviously, but there's enough misdirection to engage the reader's attention. As a slim, single-sitting novel, it's quite engaging overall, actually, and I can't say I feel the hour or so I spent reading it was at all wasted.

All that's not to say this isn't a decent historical mystery; if the audience were comparatively youthful, it could actually be quite good. As far as recommendations go, I think this would make a good introduction to both genres (mystery and historical fiction) for a middle school English class; it could also initiate or coincide with a more in-depth study of Dickinson's poetry, perhaps even at a higher grade level.
  InfoQuest | Aug 24, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book is a well written, young adult novel. It gives the young reader a glimpse into what life was like when Emily Dickinson was alive. At the same time, it provides a clever mystery for the reader to try to solve. I would recommend this book for middle and high schooler as well as any adult who enjoys the simplicity and innocence of young adult literature. ( )
  LutherAnn | Jul 25, 2013 |
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To Rowan, who prefers more crows in her murders
First words
Emily lay perfectly still, hidden in the tall grass, her eyes closed tight.
I'm nobody! Who are you?/Are you nobody too?/Then there's a pair of us - don't tell!/They'd banish us, you know!/How dreary to be somebody!/How public like a frog -/To tell your name - the livelong day-/To an admiring bog!
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When fifteen-year-old Emily Dickinson meets a charming, enigmatic young man who playfully refuses to tell her his name, she is intrigued--so when he is found dead in her family's pond in Amherst she is determined to discover his secret, no matter how dangerous it may prove to be.… (more)

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