Emma’s adventures in literature continue in this smart, funny follow-up to A Breath of Eyre (2012) that will have readers hauling out their battered school copies of The Scarlet Letter for a second look.
Emma is miserable when Gray breaks up with her not long after leaving for Coast Guard training. It’s unfair to ask her to put her life on hold for a year, he explains. As Emma recovers her balance, she begins to appreciate her unwanted freedom while remaining unsure how to use it—she’s still figuring out who she is. “Take risks. Make mistakes,” her grandmother advises, and Emma does. Her new hairdo is a success, but after she’s caught impulsively kissing roommate Michelle’s boyfriend, she becomes a school pariah. “There is no place more hellish to a teenage girl in poor social standing than a high school cafeteria,” Emma reflects. Repeatedly, via dream or trance state, she’s transported back to Puritan New England, where she encounters someone who knows all about public humiliation: Hester Prynne. Though parallels drawn between Emma’s life and Hawthorne’s novel are nonlinear and intriguing, Mont takes fewer literary risks with primary sources here. Gray’s more conventional, his edginess muted.
It’s Emma’s identity—less crisis than quest—that matters. With help from her fictional role model Hester, it’s an illuminating journey. (Fiction. 13 & up)