Thursday, April 7, 2011

M5 Seeing Emily (A LS 5663 Review)

Wong, Joyce Lee. 2005. Seeing Emily. New York: Amulet Books. ISBN: 0-8109-5757-4.

     Sixteen year old Emily has always done what is expected of her. She works hard, stays out of trouble, and gets along well with her parents. After meeting a new guy at school, Emily decides that like her drawings and paintings, she would like to be a blank canvas, ready to be designed differently. However, when Nick tries to get her to become someone she isn’t, Emily becomes confused as to who she really is. A trip to her parents’ homeland of Taiwan, Emily finds out who she really is.

     The beauty of this novel is the metaphors. Emily’s poetry often compares her feelings to that of animals in a poignant way. “I imagined I was a cat, her eyes shining as she watches a goldfish/ that shimmers on the floor” (Wong 12). The imagery is detailed and moving. During the course of the story, Emily is working on a mural for her school. The mascot is a tiger, so many references are made to the tiger and its prey, paralleling Nick and Emily’s relationship and her own struggle to find herself. While the comparisons are clear, a teen reader would not feel overwhelmed with “lecturing” by the morale of the story. “Taking Flight” and the following poem “The Dance” cut to the heart of the matter: a tiger chasing a monkey and Nick forcing Emily to be someone she is not. These two poems could be a pair reading for high school students, comparing the poem about the animals to the one about a relationship that doesn’t feel right. Many students struggle with writing metaphors or similes without using clichés, and these two poems balance each other perfectly.

     A part of “Taking Flight”

With a rustle of leaves

and a graceful leap

to another tree,

the monkey swings herself away,

disappearing into the green.

Even after she’s gone

her screams echo back

so raucous and wild

they startle

a flock of birds. (178)

     A part of “The Dance”

Even the blessedly hot

water shooting out

from the shower head,

beating down loud

against the glass walls,

couldn’t drown out

the words,

my geisha,


My geisha. (181)

     In addition to discussing the rich language, the topic of fitting in is always timely with teens. They struggle to find their place, and this book examines a Chinese American girl's road to self-discovery.

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