The Thing with Feathers
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About the Author
McCall Hoyle writes honest YA novels about friendship, first love, and girls finding the strength to overcome great challenges. She is an award-winning author and an ALA Schneider Family Book Award finalist. She is a sixth-grade language-arts teacher in one of the largest school systems in Georgia. She has a wide circle of influencers in the middle grades, including teachers and librarians. In addition to teaching middle grade readers, she regularly makes presentations at local schools, as well as at the National Council of Teachers of English, the American Library Association, and BookCon.
A refreshing, quality debut--meaningfully woven and beautifully engaging, from the first page to the last. Told in a remarkably unobtrusive first-person present-tense format, THE THING WITH FEATHERS is a coming-of-age story centered around new beginnings, old grief, and coming to terms with an 'invisible' disability. I liked the subject matter and voice in the blurb enough to give this a go, but it was the first line that truly snared me: 'My mother lost her mind today, and I'm going to prison.' A terrific introduction to the main character, Emilie, in a single (and perplexingly snarky) sentence. From there the author doesn't just grab initial attention, she holds onto it with crisp writing, insightful emotional depth, and a relatably smart, sarcastic heroine. Kudos to the author on such solid characterization of a service animal. Hitch (Emilie's seizure-sensing golden retriever) feels immediately believable, and his functionality is explained and expanded on at natural intervals. What's more, the additional significance and personality Emilie ascribes to his actions and facial expressions often tells readers as much (if not more) about her own mindset as it does about the dog himself. I'd never before heard the theory that Emily Dickinson may have been Epileptic--but it would certainly explain both her reclusive nature (especially during an era in which the condition was misunderstood and stigmatized) and her broodingly hopeful compositions. That tie-in was a welcome organic thread, offering opportunity for both educational points and outside literary input; without beating readers over the head with it. There isn't anything surprising about the plot itself--no twists or anything you won't see coming from early on. The primary antagonist (outside of Epilepsy itself) struck this reader as almost disappointingly toothless. But the story's execution is charming and the ending pulls everything together with a satisfying and ultimately hopeful symmetry.--YA Books Central
"[Readers] will swoon over the dreamy Chatham and root for Emilie to come out of her shell."--Kirkus
Emilie Day believes in playing it safe: she's homeschooled, her best friend is her seizure dog, and she's probably the only girl on the Outer Banks of North Carolina who can't swim. Then Emilie's mom enrolls her in public school, and Emilie goes from studying at home in her pj's to halls full of strangers. To make matters worse, Emilie is paired with starting point guard Chatham York for a major research project on Emily Dickinson. She should be ecstatic when Chatham shows interest, but she has a problem. She hasn't told anyone about her epilepsy. Emilie lives in fear her recently adjusted meds will fail and she'll seize at school. Eventually, the worst happens, and she must decide whether to withdraw to safety or follow a dead poet's advice and 'dwell in possibility'. 'The Thing with Feathers' is a compelling story of overcoming fears, forging new friendships, and finding a first love. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists, 'The Thing with Feathers' will prove to be an ideal and enduringly popular addition to school and community library YA Fiction collections.--MidWest Book Review