I was fortunate enough to meet McCall Hoyle at Book Con 2017, where I received an ARC of her debut novel, The Thing With Feathers.
Summary: Emilie Day is quite comfortable with playing it safe; after all, she’s been homeschooled since she was eight years old, her best friend is her service dog, and she’s pretty okay with being the only girl on the Outer Banks of North Carolina who can’t swim. Life gets turned upside down when Emilie’s mom enrolls her in public school, not to mention the fact that within the first week, she gets paired with all star point guard Chatham York on a research project about Emily Dickinson. As Chatham shows interest in Emilie and friendships start to form, Emilie is terrified to tell anyone that she has epilepsy.
My Rating: 3.5/ 5 Stars
My (a bit spoilery) Thoughts:
The Thing with Feathers sparked my interest because it features a main protagonist who has epilepsy. I’ve never read a book with a character who is epileptic, so it was interesting to see how Emilie’s condition affected her day to day life. We see her taking new medication that helps control her seizures, interact with her service dog, Hitch, who is one my new favorite fictional dogs, and most importantly, live in fear of having a seizure at school. I understand Emilie’s fear of having a seizure in school and in public, and I wish that Hitch had been able to accompany her to school from the start. Granted, we wouldn’t have too much of a story, as Emilie must learn that she can have a life while living with epilepsy. It was fun to see her make new friends, specifically Chatham and Ayla, and see her shine as an English student. While we do get to see her hangout with Ayla and Chatham out of school, I wish we got to see Emilie doing more “normal teenage” or student type things—did she ever actually agree to writing to the lit mag??
I did not understand why it took one hundred plus pages for Emilie to tell one of her friends that she had epilepsy. Why was she so afraid to tell Chatham and Ayla about her condition? It’s not like she’s confessing that she committed a crime! Emilie wants to be able to form relationships without her epilepsy affecting them or making others wary of her. Yet, if one of my friends had a medical condition that could affect their day-to-day activity, I would want to know for their safety!
We had so many “filler” chapters where Emilie could have easily told Chatham about her epilepsy. While it was sweet seeing their relationship build, she spends half of each chapter worrying about how Chatham will react. Chatham’s little sister has Asperger’s syndrome, he wants to be a counselor one day , and he’s always volunteering—if there’s one guy that can understand Emilie, IT’S HIM! The guy recites poetry that she tutored him in for crying out now. Speaking of poetry, while I’m not the biggest Emily Dickinson fan, it was cool to see her work in the novel and how Emilie connects to her. I figured that her work would have something to do with the title.
My favorite aspect of The Thing with Feathers was the focus on Emilie’s family life, including Hitch (HITCH IS FAMILY). Hitch made my heart so happy! While she isn’t exactly family, I also enjoyed Cindy’s role in the novel, showing Emilie that you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up. It was hard seeing Emilie and her mom be so divided, between the pain that they both feel from Emilie’s father’s death and Emilie’s discomfort with her mom moving on. While it’s a bit more understandable in this case, as Emilie’s mom doesn’t know what it’s actually like to have epilepsy, we have some classic YA “my parent doesn’t get what I’m going through and I’m going to have some animosity about it.” However, throughout the novel, we see Emilie’s mom try to connect to her daughter and I’m glad by the end that both Emilie and her mother are rebuilding their relationship.
Have you read or are planning to read The Thing with Feathers? Share in the comments!