A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The "Emily" in the book title is New England poet Emily Dickinson. Readers of Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things will learn about Dickinson's poetry, some of which is quoted in the novel, and about the museum that now exists in her former home, where the main character, Claire, sees Emily's dress. This book also sends a cautionary message to teens about entering into relationships with strangers, and imparts information about high school life in the New England towns of Amherst, Mass., and Providence, R.I., and university life in Amherst.
Toward the end of the novel, Claire says that she "knows how to ask for help" now. The book illustrates how important it is to reach out to friends in times of crisis.
Positive Role Models
Claire's father is loving, supportive, patient and concerned; he tries to give his daughter space, but sets limits when he feels her behavior might be self-destructive. Her student teacher, Tate, engages her intellectually and proves to be a trustworthy friend.
Violence & Scariness
Violent acts (suicide, a possible accidental death) are recalled by the characters in Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things, but only a couple are described graphically: Claire punches someone in the nose, causing the person to bleed profusely. A man breaks down a door in anger.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Claire has an affectionate relationship with a young man; he occasionally holds her hand or puts his arm around her waist, but there's no sexual contact.
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Products & Purchases
Two misfit characters eat Goldfish crackers and drink Orangina. A dad wishes his goth daughter would buy clothes at J. Crew.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things focuses on high school senior Claire, who has suffered two painful losses: her mother's suicide and the disappearance of her best friend, Richy. This novel describes very intense emotional pain; the main character is at times barely able to function under the stress caused by grief and survivor's guilt. There are a couple of violent events: a punch in the nose, and a broken-down door. More distressing, however, is the information that's slowly revealed about Claire's mother's death and Richy's disappearance. Without blaming the victim, the novel sends a serious cautionary message about the dangers of teens engaging with strangers.
Is It Any Good?
This intensely emotional novel can be difficult to read at times; Claire struggles so much with her grief, retreating into herself, and often viewing the world through a very distorted lens. It's hard to watch her repeatedly run away, sputter, and try to tune out when things hurt too much. But by the same token, the book deals with extremely disturbing events, and Claire's reaction -- her suffering, her guilt -- seems quite realistic. Without being preachy, the book also sends a clear message about the importance of sharing feelings with trustworthy friends, and the dangers of teens entering into relationships with untrustworthy adults. The mystery element of the novel is brief and quickly resolved, but what's there is suspenseful and engaging. This is a meaningful book for teens who can handle serious emotional content.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.