• Tara K. Ross

YA Book Review: The Thing With Feathers, by McCall Hoyle



Given that it's National Poetry Month, I decided to write my first YA Book Review about a novel that reads like poetry and also honors the prolific American poet, Emily Dickinson. The Thing With Feathers, by McCall Hoyle definitely lives up to it's front cover accolades and award winning status.

Hoyle tells an intimate story about an emotionally scarred girl, Emilie Day. She has Epilepsy, and lives in constant fear of having a seizure in a public place. Having faced social trauma in the past, she prefers home schooling and the company of her seizure dog, Hitch, to typical teenage drama and judgement. In the first chapter Emilie's mother announces that Emilie will be starting public high school on her therapists advice - to improve her social and emotional health. Emilie doesn't agree, but reluctantly goes on a trial basis. The reader then travels with Emilie as she slowly unravels from her tightly wound shell.

The story takes place on an island town in North Carolina, and Hoyle takes hold of all your senses to bring you to this setting. For some, the descriptions may be too much, but I love getting a thorough picture of where I am and who is with me when reading a story. Particularly, when the author can do it so poetically. Hoyle does this masterfully. She also demonstrates her obvious love for poetry and all things Emily Dickinson with beautiful quotes to start each chapter and integrated quotes and poems throughout.

I started reading this novel when on vacation, and loved the first few chapters, but got nasty car sick and needed to put it down. When I got back home, it was difficult to get as motivated after a week hiatus, but once I got past the midpoint and reconnected with the characters, I sacrificed much needed sleep to read the last 15 chapters two hours past my pumpkin-o-clock. The last three chapters in particular are so worth the journey. There were tears, there were tingles, there were deep sighs. And I am now forever in love with McCall Hoyle. She quotes Emily Dickinson's poem at the perfect point and connects all the loose ends like the fishtail braids I wish I could master.


I will break books I review down into three categories. For those who skim my review (never) and want a quick checkpoint here is what I give The Thing with Feathers, by McCall Hoyle:

(scored out of 5)

Quality of Writing: 5

Turn-Paging Effect: 4

Attributes of Hope: 5


BLOGGER DISCLAIMER: So let me just put this out there. I may cyber-stalk McCall Hoyle. OK, there is no may.

I do. So, this review may be slightly biased. But what review isn't a tad? When I first decided to take a stab at writing YA fiction, and specifically Clean YA Fiction, I hunted down and ordered anything that looked like it might fit within what they call in the literary world, "comps", or comparative titles. Well, McCall's cover and title pulled me in right away, because I love feathers and recognized the partial quote within the title. That was all I needed to click ADD TO CART. But I did read the back cover as well and knew this would be a great "comp". So if you also love this book, please let me know. If there are things you would change, also let me know. Really Really. There is no point writing a novel that teens don't like, so I am hear to learn form you.

AND (drum roll please.....)

Your reward for making it to the end of my first YA book review is in this photo:

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