|Publication year: 2011
Time and place: Civil War era US
Narrated in: first-person
First sentence: “There’s no such thing as a perfect book,” Mr. Ochocinco says.
When Emily March opened the book she had chosen for a school assignment she heard a strange sound. In the next moment she found herself inside the story, as one of the characters: the middle daughter of the March family in Little Women. Having no idea how she got there or why, she decided she might as well take on a mission. She decides that she will save Beth from dying, and then she will probably be sent back home. And in the meantime Teddy Laurence is just so cute, she is definitely certain she will not get bored.
I couldn’t help finding Emily, our heroine, a bit too harebrained, self-centered, and a bit too boy obsessed for my taste. I know that she is fourteen and all, but if anything this should stop her from behaving like a spoiled brat. And it doesn’t, or at least not always. To be fair, the fact that there’s a lot of room for improvement in her ends up being sort of a good thing, since she gets to grow and becomes a better person while in the pages of the book. She does this, however, somewhere near the end, which means that I was stuck with the obnoxious Emily for most of the novel. And I did not particularly enjoy that.
One of the bits I found particularly annoying: one day she finds herself alone with Laurie, and she kisses him (she even “tried to slip him some tongue” — could she have been more oblivious to the customs of the age?). And when he, understandably enough, is horrified by this, she draws the conclusion that “he was probably just acting so flustered because on some level he thought I was hot, even if he couldn’t allow himself to think that“. Even if I had been inclined (and by now I wasn’t) to like her until this moment, after that my esteem for her dropped somewhere below ground.
The rest of the characters aren’t fleshed out too much, most likely because we see them only through Emily’s eyes, and she is too self-involved to notice much around her (I was actually amused when Beth’s canary died and Emily was rather confused, as she had no idea they had a canary in the first place). Most of her thoughts regarding the March family and their world are derogatory1, including when it comes to Marmee, and I was sad to see that because it seemed unwarranted. At least Emily establishes a sort of report with the two sisters nearer to her in age (Jo and Beth), and that is at times nice to read/discover. Laurie too is mentioned a lot, since Emily tends to obsess about him a little2, but the vast majority of the time she only thinks about how “hot” he is or how much he likes her but won’t show it. Ugh.
Something I did like was the way that Emily’s new life stuck very close to the events in the book. Practically she only gets to act/participate in the scenes that were in the original novel, as the Marches never do anything but that (they never go to church, never go shopping, etc). This “rule” is rather lax, as Emily does have some leeway (otherwise she wouldn’t have been ever able to spend any time alone for example), but I thought it an interesting idea nonetheless. Especially when the book moves forward three years and Emily practically blinks and finds herself three years older :)
Another interesting idea I thought was the way the March family has adapted to having a new member, but not entirely seamlessly. Everyone knows that Emily is the middle March sister, but they are sort of hazy on the details. Even Marmee mentions one time how hard it was for her to raise her four daughters alone, and when pressed she admits that she has no idea why she sometimes thinks she has four girls not five. This part was very nicely done, but apparently Emily too suffers from a sort of “story amnesia” that randomly comes and goes. While I get that it would have been a boring book if Emily had known in advance everything that was to happen, her amnesia felt too much like a plot device, as it comes at goes at the most convenient times. I do not see why the author has chosen to make this book Emily’s favorite, as it would have been a lot simpler to give her only a passing acquaintance with it, and it would have been the perfect explanation for the fact that she only remembers the major plot points.
Thoughts on the ending:
The ending was… interesting :)
Bottom line: It has some good points. Its Goodreads rating is at the moment a bit less than 3 stars. It would have been more enjoyable if I had liked the main character.
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- random example: “I looked around and thought how ridiculous all the imagination games they played were. Seriously? These were supposed to be teenagers? What would I be doing back home right now? Back at my real home? Playing Wii. Texting friends. Going to the mall to buy clothes.” Because texting and shopping are oh so superior to having a powerful imagination, right? [↩]
- another thing I found really annoying about her was that she asked her sisters for a pact about Laurie — not to let him come between them or other some such — and then she repeatedly breaks it for the rest of the book, while also expecting Jo to keep it; I hate double standards. [↩]