When I first saw this book, I looked at the jacket blurb and got an entirely incorrect first impression, as almost all of my first impressions are. I thought I would not enjoy the book because I thought I knew what kind of book it was. It thought it would be very typical and predictable.
It was not typical and it was not predictable in any way.
Emma-Jean Lazarus is suddenly faced with many difficulties. Emma-Jean doesn’t understand other kids. She considers them illogical and she knows that some are very rude. She keeps her distance from her classmates, observing them but never really interacting. But, despite this, when Colleen Pomerantz, whom she discovers sobbing over the bathroom sink at her school, asks desperately for her help with a problem of her own, Emma-Jean decides to help her.
On top of this, a boy named Will Keeler is being injustly picked on by a teacher, and she decides to help him as well. Emma-Jean solves both of their problems using methods involving forgery and trickery. But what happens when her deception is found out? Will Emma-Jean decide that getting into other people’s business, even with their permission, is a bad idea? Will she go back to the Emma-Jean she was before she walked in on Collen crying in the bathroom?
I enjoyed this book very much because A) The kids in it were exactly my age, which pleased me, B) It was original and wasn’t too reminiscent of any other books, and C) It had many different angles, so I never grew bored.
I don’t know what my favorite Cybil nominee is yet, but this one was one of the best I’ve read.
Sherry’s Thoughts: When Emma-Jean Lazarus’s classmates taunt her and call her “strange”, she and her mother look up the word in the Oxford English Dictionary, “kept out on her mother’s dresser for handy reference.”
The second definition for strange is “extraordinary, remarkable, singular.” Emma-Jean and her mother decide that the description is quite accurate as applied to Emma-Jean, and they further decide that Emma-Jean should take such an epithet as a compliment rather than an insult. The “strange” thing about the episode is that Emma-Jean does deal with all her problems just so logically.
Emma-Jean reminds me of the TV detective, Monk. She’s never labelled with OCD or Asperger’s or any other of the multitude of labels we give to those have strange (and remarkable) personalities, and that’s a strength of the novel. I’m not like Emma-Jean, but I can identify. Which of us isn’t extraordinary, remarkable, and singular in the unique way God created each of us, and which of hasn’t known the feeling of not fitting in with the crowd?
Emma-Jean learns and grows over the course of the novel, and at the same time she remains a singular, remarkable young lady. I agree with Brown Bear Daughter that this book was one of the best of the Cybil nominees I’ve read.