Elizabeth Davis has an attitude problem. She has a lot of anger inside her that she must learn to control before it breaks her. Emily Delgado is a sweet, obedient girl on the outside but inside her depression is consuming her. Both girls are in Ms Diaz’s literature class and through the poetry of Emily Dickinson, they find themselves connecting to their assignments. Both are struggling and before the end of the school year, one will attempt suicide.
I knew going in to this book that there would be a suicide attempt. It was right there in the synopsis. I wasn’t expecting the book to start with a nameless girl making that attempt and then flashing back to the beginning of the year. I really liked all the references to Emily Dickinson, her poetry, and the mentions of other literary greats. It was also nice to see actual assignments getting done while the characters were in school.
Both Emily and Elizabeth were characters I really liked. Elizabeth seemed angry at life and held everyone at arm’s length. She did have friends and they seemed like really good friends who would listen to her if given the chance, but she just couldn’t bring herself to do that. The relationship she had with her little sister was great and her sister was adorable. Emily was under a lot of pressure from her father being a public figure so she had to make sure not to cause trouble, which made it hard to be a regular teen. She hid her depression from everyone.
Their teacher, Ms Diaz, was also a great character. She was passionate about teaching and she really cared for her students. She could engage them and make them think.
I thought Elizabeth’s anger and trust issues and Emily’s depression were handled really well. It was done in a way so that I was pretty sure I knew which girl was in the beginning but there was lingering doubt in the back of my mind. It was painful to see how the two girls were isolating themselves from everyone but also hopeful when they started talking to each other.
I also thought the author did a great job showing how other people can react and not understand the depth of how hard it can be to live with a mental illness like depression. It’s not something you can just snap out of and what can seem like ‘no big deal’ to most people is actually a huge deal to them.
One thing that did take me out of the story a little bit was that there was at times, some of the characters would say something in Spanish. I don’t know Spanish and it was hit or miss if I could decipher what they were saying without looking it up.
Overall, I thought the subject matter was handled sensitively and that the poetry connection was used very well. The book definitely evoked some strong emotions while reading: anger and sadness being the main two.