Title: Emily in Love
Author: Susan Goldman Rubin
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 176
Sequel to: Emily Good as Gold
Emily in Love picks up where it’s predecessor left off, following the joys and challenges in the life of the titular character. All Emily wants is to be like everybody else and be treated accordingly, but her mental disability complicates things that come naturally to other girls her age. At the beginning of this book, Emily is mainstreamed for the first time in her life and gets a job at a healthy foods market that employs a lot of young people with special needs.
Trying to function at a regular school is hard for Emily, but she meets a boy named Hunt in her new school who she becomes quite infatuated with. She doesn’t want Hunt to know she’s slow, and she goes to great lengths to hide the truth from him. Emily’s whole Hunt obsession and desperate attempts to make him think she’s normal and thus possibly ‘like’ her back was a little bit painful, because he obviously knew she was mentally slow from the get-go and she was putting herself through all this extra stress for no reason.
Unfortunately Hunt wasn’t developed at all throughout the story, he was just kind of your basic easy-going teenage boy who doesn’t want to be mean to mentally disabled kids but doesn’t necessarily want to hang out with them either. The way the whole conflict with him was resolved left a lot to be desired. Just like the previous book, it’s satisfying to watch Emily gradually gain maturity and grow more independent.
I think that’s the most realistic element of the stories; Emily doesn’t miraculously show progress by leaps and bounds and that’s what makes the reader feel uplifted when she figures something important out and exceeds the expectations of both the people around her and herself. It’s a fairly rare example of a mentally disabled character being the lead of their own story instead of a supporting character, and it doesn’t water down how challenging life can be for Emily while still maintaining a hopeful message. It’s a shame the author didn’t write any more books about this character after this one, but she has succeeded in creating a sympathetic and believable heroine in Emily.
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