Emily Dickinson remains an enigma; this debut featuring her dress offers another mystery.
After losing her mother to suicide, being considered a suspect in her best friend Richy’s disappearance, relocating from Providence, R.I., to Amherst, Mass., and repeating her senior year for a second time, Claire thinks she should be a recluse, too. Inspired by Dickinson’s poetry, the teen writes her own, featured throughout the story, to sort through her troubled world. When Claire’s student teacher in English class, Mr. Tate, notices her dark writing and inadvertently triggers her theft of Dickinson’s dress from the poet’s home, the pair has more to sort out than what to do with the antique garment. Claire’s lyrical, first-person narration turns more intense when Richy’s body is recovered and as Tate (no longer a “Mr.” once student teaching is over) helps her piece together clues about his final moments. In the process of finding Richy’s killer, she also discovers how to deal with her grief, move on, make new friends and watch her father date.
And of course, there’s still the issue of that dress—and each other—in this quick yet fulfilling read for aspiring writers and fans of literary fiction. (Mystery. 13 & up)