You’d expect a teenager with a penchant for Emily Dickinson’s poems to be somewhat morbid, but Emily Shephard has more than the usual excuse. Her cosmopolitan parents moved the family to the North Kingdom of Vermont to run a nuclear power plant. Once there, none of the Shepherds really fit in, which leads to poor grades for Emily, and alcoholism for the parents. When the nuclear reactor melts down, Emily’s father and mother, who are killed in the accident, are blamed. Emily learns of this after she is evacuated from school, and believes that no one will want to help her, so she runs away, and begins an odyssey of homelessness, prostitution, and desperation that drags her into her own private meltdown.
The strength of this book is simultaneously its weakness. Emily tells her own story through a stream of consciousness diary that winds back upon itself and is somewhat self-absorbed. As authentic as the voice is, the circular structure can be frustrating. This book will probably appeal to the YA crowd, but given the subject matter, would be better for high school than middle school.