Sometimes the second you lay eyes a book, you cannot wait to read it. That’s how I felt when I first saw Kathryn Fitzmaurice’s new middle grade novel, Destiny, Rewritten. Everything about that cover (by Erwin Madrid) speaks to my inner 11-year-old, and I’ll bet it will speak to a whole lot of actual 11-year-olds too. I mean, what’s not to love, from the point of view of a starry-eyed, fashionably cute, bookstore-loving, cat obsessed girl? Even the title font is pretty much spot on, promising a little whimsy and romance and some artsy flair. Add the soft, magic-is-about-to-happen lighting from above, and I’m sold. Bam. Done. My only complaint, post-read, is that the cute kitty does not feature in the story, which seems misleading, since he features so prominently on the front. (And clearly he has a story. I mean, look at that face!)
So it was with a heart full of expectation that I began to read about the life and adventures of eleven-year-old Emily Elizabeth Davis, who is destined to become a poet, just like Emily Dickinson, because that is who she was named after. Emily’s mother, herself a poet, and a rather flaky, destiny-loving lady, named her daughter after ED in the hopes that her daughter would grow up to be a remarkable poet as well. Too bad Emily has no talent for poetry, or any interest in it really. She would rather read romance novels, and imagine her future as a famous writer in the tradition of Danielle Steel, to whom she writes frequent letters. She hasn’t told her mom about all this… yet. Things get complicated when Emily finds out that her mother, who has kept the identity of Emily’s dad secret, reveals that she wrote his name into the special volume of Emily Dickinson’s poetry that Emily has treasured for as long as she can remember. But before Emily can find this life-changing information, the book is lost. So begins her search to find the book, find out the truth about her father, and hopefully, discover her true destiny along the way.
There’s a lot to love in this gentle story. Fitzmaurice creates a wonderfully realistic relationship between Emily and her best friend Wavey. I particularly appreciated the dialogue between the two of them. I like the way it bounces back and forth, with each one of the kids adding on to what the other one says, finishing up the other’s thoughts in that way that real friends sometimes do. You really believe in their friendship. The setting, Berkeley, California, comes across as quirky and warm. Emily writes to her author-hero, Danielle Steel, and the letters are delightful little funny and heartwarming treats scattered throughout the narrative. In fact, heartwarming is pretty much the perfect word for this whole book. I also like it when an author is successful in bringing together different narrative threads in a way that doesn’t feel contrived, but rather captures how life can surprise us with circumstances that might be destiny, or perhaps only strange coincidences.
Just two complaints. First, sometimes Emily’s language did not ring true for an eleven-year-old. It came off as too adult in places. I’ve listened to many an eleven-year-old, and there were moments when Emily’s way of speaking / thinking seemed far too adult to be convincing. This was occasionally distracting. Also, while I get that Emily’s mom was meant to be flaky, she came off a little one-dimensional and hard to believe a lot of the time. I found her unsympathetic overall, almost like she was toying with her daughter’s emotions by being such a slave to the notion of everything being destined. I found it hard to think that a mother would treat her daughter’s desire to know her father with such a lack of seriousness and respect, almost as if it was a kind of game.
Destiny, Rewritten is an Indiebound Kid’s Pick for Spring, and I can see why. Pick it up and you’ll be delighted you did.
Destiny, Rewritten is published by Katherine Tegen Books.