Book Review: Emily (A Louder Than Words book)
(A Louder Than Words Book)
by Emily Smucker; edited by Deborah Reber
HCI Teens (Heath Communications Inc.), 2009
ISBN 13: 978-0-7573-1414-8
$10.95 Can / $7.95 U.S.
Cybils MG/YA Non-fiction Nominee
This past weekend, I sat down to read Emily, one of the debut teen memoirs in the Louder Than Words series. I was immediately intrigued by this series, mainly because there’s not much in the way of memoir or biography for or about teens, and even less that’s written by teens for teens.
The Louder Than Words series gives talented teen writers the opportunity to tell their life stories. In Emily, 17-year-old Emily Smucker writes about dealing with a mysterious, chronic illness—”Emily flu” as she calls it—in a diary-like format. She describes the debilitating fevers, exhaustion and insomnia which sideline her for what was supposed to be one of the most important years of her life—her senior year of high school. All of her big plans crumble to pieces. She’s too weak and frail to produce the play she wrote, take a course at the community college, or get a part-time job. Most days, she can’t even muster up the energy to go to school.
“I want a normal life for a teenager. I want to ache from a long day at work. I want to be so busy that I don’t have time to post on my blog. I want to run the race of life instead of being pushed along in a wheelchair. I want to be on the ride of my life, you know?”
Eventually, Emily is diagnosed with a rare West Nile virus-like illness. She writes candidly about the emotional and physical struggles of her illness. Although she cycles through several bouts of depression, she manages to persevere with the help of her family, friends and her Mennonite faith. Her keen imagination, insight, and sense of humour shine in the quirky and random thoughts peppered throughout her memoir. Some reflect determination to make the best of an unfortunate situation (I especially liked how she wryly refers to her walking cane as John McCane), while others are simply the meandering musings, rants and ramblings of a typical teenager, turning what might otherwise have been a sober story into an engaging, entertaining read.