Sunday, November 5, 2017

So Totally Emily Ebers (Millicent Min #3) by Lisa Yee


Lisa Yee just gets better with each book! I have read other books and series in which different chapters or books are meant to be narrated from the perspective of different characters, but so often the only way to tell who is narrating each chapter or book is to read the name in the title. Not so with this series! Millicent, Stanford, and Emily have such distinctive personalities and voices that come through so clearly in the writing.

This is the third book in the Millicent Min series. This time, we are seeing the events of the summer from Emily Ebers's perspective. Emily is a bubbly, life-loving 12-year-old who loves fashion, is a little on the heavy side, and confident in who she is as a person. What she isn't sure of is how to deal with all the life changes around her. Her parents just got a divorce, and she's reeling. Her mother is trying, but is herself struggling with heartbreak and change, and can't yet be the solid source of support that Emily needs. Emily blames her mother for the divorce and continually ices her out. Meanwhile, Emily yearns for attention from her father, yet rarely gets any. Young readers whose parents have divorced may find Emily relatable.

In this book, the story is told in a series of letters written in a journal from Emily to her father. Emily's plan is to send her dad the journal at the end of the summer. Like Millicent Min, there are times when the narration is unreliable; we the reader know what's going on, but poor Emily still has her eyes closed to the truth.

Meanwhile, Emily is trying to make new friends in town before school starts in the fall. Beside befriending Millicent, she also makes friends with other girls in middle school, including Wendy and the "popular girls", Julie and the "Triple A's" (three girls who tag along with Julie and all have names starting with "A"). Emily is already too self-confident to truly fall under Julie's spell, but it does take some time for Emily to stand up and assert herself. I love that Emily is able to tell off Julie without actually telling her off in a rude way - it's just so totally Emily Ebers to stand up for herself in a way that spreads kindness and confidence.

Much of this book also focuses on Emily's first real crush on Stanford Wong. I love how Emily is white - actually, Jewish - and just happens to have a Chinese-American best friend and a Chinese-American crush. It also turns out - from one mention of someone's last name - that one of Emily's best friends back in New Jersey was also Asian-American. It's that flavor of diversity where the multiculturalism is not at all a central or even minor concern; the characters just happen to be Asian-American.

One last thought, just in case anyone appreciates this kind of heads-up. During the course of this eventful summer, Emily also has her Judy Blume moment - that is, she gets her period. It's just something that happens!

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