I first heard of The Thing with the Feathers when I was browsing around on Goodreads, and was immediately drawn into its unique plot and intriguing title (not to mention the simple, yet very pretty cover).
I’ve read a lot of contemporary YA books about a lot of different health issues, both physical and mental, but I can’t say I’ve ever read anything about a main character having epilepsy. So I was definitely excited to see what was going to happen in this book, how the main character’s story (her going from being homeschooled to going to public school) was going to play out, and how the relationship was going to develop between her, the other kids at school, and Chatham.
“My mother lost her mind today, and I’m going to prison.
Some people call it North Ridge High School, but believe me: it’s this girl’s worst punishment.”
Emilie is being forced to go back to public school, and she sincerely doesn’t want to. She’s been getting homeschooled for years, because she hasn’t wanted to go back to school due to her epilepsy and the fact that she could have a seizure at any time, in front of everyone. So she isn’t pleased with her mom for sending her to public school. She is determined not to make friends or form any attachments, because at the first option for her to go back to being homeschooled, she plans on it. Plus, her seizure alert dog is her very best friend, so why would she need anyone else?
When she first starts, she meets Chatham, a pretty popular guy who is on the basketball team and everyone pretty much likes. He is nice to her, showing her around and talking to her, and despite Emilie’s attempts not to make a friend, she does so with Chatham and another girl. In fact, she makes friends quite easily, and she also fails to mention her epilepsy at first, trying not to get treated differently and have other people talk about her.
However, once Emilie gets to know Chatham, first tutoring him and eventually being asked on a date by him, she finds herself falling for him fast. She still dreads telling him about her epilepsy, and while she is still attempting to get her mom to let her go back to being homeschooled, she does her best and tries to date Chatham.
Eventually, the unthinkable happens and Emilie is faced with something she has been dreading – coming clean about her epilepsy to her classmates, and then deciding whether to keep going to public school with her friends, or to go back to being homeschooled once and for all.
I loved the whole idea for the story behind The Thing with the Feathers, and I honestly hoped that by reading this book, I could even learn a bit more about epilepsy. However, the plot in general just didn’t stand out that much to me, and I didn’t really get to learn much more than I would have by doing a Google search. I hoped for more. More originality in the plot. More from the characters. More information about epilepsy.
The characters in The Thing with the Feathers weren’t really bad or anything, I just felt they were kind of cookie-cutter like in terms of being anything different. With the exception of Emilie, I didn’t feel that any of the others were truly unique.
At the same time, I thought this book was written well and the story flowed nicely from the beginning all the way through the end. It kept me reading, and I finished it the same day that I started it, which lately has been pretty rare for me. It was easy to get into and I really liked how the story was told.
I also really loved how the entire book featured Emily Dickinson references. I thought it was a really lovely touch and it was probably my favorite part of the book, to be honest. I also love the setting – North Carolina. It was described beautifully (and since I’ve never been there, I love when an author can really take me to a place like this through the writing). Also, there’s an awesome Golden Retriever in this book that I loved!
The Thing with the Feathers is the kind of book that I sincerely wanted to enjoy and fall in love with, and while I really did like the book, the characters, and the plot, I found myself not really developing connections with those characters or finding the plot to be anything all that different from other things I’ve read.
If you love contemporary or haven’t read anything about epilepsy (or you’re looking for a heartwarming romance), I recommend picking this one up.