So I read this book. It’s called Destiny, Rewritten, and it’s by Kathryn Fitzmaurice. Because of the title, I keep forgetting that the protagonist’s name is actually Emily and not Destiny. I think that’s partly because I am silly and partly because I was a tad bit bored by this book.
Okay, so actually the setup is interesting. Emily Elizabeth Davis is named after Emily Dickinson, because her mother is an English professor. She has a first edition of the collected works that her mother has turned into a sort of scrapbook of her life, picking a poem that is meaningful at the time that Emily learns how to walk, eats her first bite of solid food, etc. (So right there, I want this book to be like a middle grade Pale Fire, and sadly it’s not.) Anyway. The book is mistakenly given to Goodwill by Emily’s cousin, which starts a “Serendipity“-esque journey through all the bookstores in Berkeley to find the book, because Emily and her mother are really into fate, and Emily’s mother decided before Emily was born that she would be a poet just like Dickinson, and she really insists upon it, because she’s a little nutso. (Emily really wants to be a romance novelist, and she writes letters to Danielle Steel.)
So it’s cute, except that that sort of plot kind of works better in film than in text, because there could be all of these cute montages of kids being secret agents and ditching school to look for a book, which is a pretty excellent idea. And, of course, Emily learns things about herself and comes to her own conclusions about what destiny is, etc etc.
This book is fine. Nothing special, but not bad. My problem with it is just that the fact that there is a famous poet in here is meaningless; it’s just an catalyst for the plot. I want this book to use poetry the way For Your Eyes Only! did, because I really loved that book when I was a kid and it made me more interested in poetry than I would have been otherwise. There is almost no poetry (and almost no Dickinson biography) in Destiny, Rewritten except for the poems that one of Emily’s schoolmates writes, plus a couple quoted stanzas of Dickinson’s, which means that the fact that Emily is named after a shut-in agoraphobe is pretty much meaningless, and she could have easily been named after any other poetess (or Lady Poet, as Anastasia Krupnik would have said). I learned more about Danielle Steel than Emily Dickinson. And the plot trimmings are not very compelling.
Ugh. It’s so hard to find anything critically interesting with which to engage, so I’m just going to stop. This book is a perfectly fine thing to read; it just won’t be a classic. Whatever.