Sunday, October 14, 2012

Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things by Kathryn Burak

Claire is in her last year of high school for the second time.  She and her father have moved to Amherst after the death of her mother and the disappearance of her best friend, Richy, a case that Claire was a suspect in.  Claire just wants to get through the year, but she can't stop wondering what happened to Richy and if she could have saved him.  After she and the student teacher in her English class, Tate, are brought together in a very strange way, Claire begins to string together clues that might help her figure out what happened to Richy.

The summary on the back of the book confused me, because it starts off with "When you mother dies and your best friend disappears that same year..." but it seemed like Claire's mother had actually died when she was much younger.  But I doubted myself because of the summary.  But I'm pretty sure now that they were in NOT in the same year at all.  It wouldn't be the first time a blurb has been misleading.

At first, I was annoyed with this book.  And I was mostly annoyed by Sam Tate, the worst student teacher ever.  This is the problem reading (or watching TV or movies) that involves your profession.  You end up shaking your head and saying things like, "That's not how it is!" and "If this really happened, you'd be fired so fast!"  I assume this is how doctors feel watching medical shows and how police people and forensic scientists feel watching Law & Order.  Sam, you do not say stuff like that to a student.  You do not make light when they insinuate they had to take time off from school.  You do not give them unsolicited advice about their personal lives.  Because you never know what someone has dealt with.  You never know (because sometimes, the school doesn't tell you) who has cancer, whose father died over the summer, whose sibling is in the hospital, whose suffering from depression.  You SUCK Sam Tate, and you need to keep your mouth shut.

So I had some problems getting passed that, which is kind of silly, but there it is.  When he wasn't Claire's student teacher anymore, and they were partners in crime, I was able to enjoy the story much more.  Claire has been severally damaged by what's happened to her.  She feels incredible guilty about not being able to save her mother from her third suicide attempt, or save Richy.  She was the last person to see both of them alive.  Claire is being crushed underneath her guilt and sadness, but refuses help.  Her father is concerned for her, but does not know the extent of what's going on in Claire's head, and agrees to let her try and work things out herself, which is not going well.

I thought Burak did a good and respectful job at showing what it was like for Claire, how what had happened effected everything for her, and how she couldn't pull herself out of the hole she was in, or ask for the help she needed to do so.

The Emily Dickinson aspect didn't add a whole lot to the story.  It was just kind of there.  It was something that brought Tate and Claire together originally, and then it was just this kind of silly thing lurking in the background, what to do about the dress (mail it back, duh), but Claire wants to keep the connection to Tate.  Yes, things become romancy.

I liked that it wasn't so much the solving the mystery of what happened to Richy that helped Claire move on, although that certainly helped, but the realization that there were people around her who cared for her and supported her and she was not, in fact, alone in her morass of guilt and sadness.

Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things came out October 2, 2012.

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