#85 Crapometer

Shoebox Secrets
Middle Grade Novel (Children's Fiction)


Emily Petrie is eleven years old and still doesn't know her father's name. Her mother parties almost every night, and Emily manages the checking account, their apartment, and her mom. So when her mother, Anne, claims she can't afford to keep Emily home for the summer, she gladly travels to her grandparents' house for a break.

What begins as a welcome vacation turns into a confusing series of events as Emily meets Molly Hopkins, the daughter of her grandparents' new neighbor. Molly pressures Emily to talk about her family, revealing that Emily has never met her father and doesn't know who he is.

The subject of this compound sentence is “Molly”. The verb “revealing” makes it look as though Molly is revealing that Emily has never met her father and doesn’t know who he is. Obvioiusly that’s not what you mean to say since it doesn't make sense.

Later, while staying in her mother's old bedroom, Emily finds the first clue to his identity hidden in a shoebox stuffed under the floorboards: her birth certificate, clearly stating his name. Meanwhile, her mother calls and informs her grandparents that she isn't coming for Emily when she'd initially said she was, providing little explanation as to why.

As Emily copes with feelings of frustration and desertion, she and Molly uncover her father's identity (which you’ve told us she already got from the birth certificate...you mean she uncovers either his photo or more information) through a stolen high school yearbook. A day later, when Emily proposes a plan to get close to her father, Molly coldly rejects it, (why?) leaving Emily to negotiate her next step alone. On her own, Emily stakes out his house, trying to glimpse him when he comes home from work. Molly, she discovers, was right: she can't do
everything by herself. (so if Molly says that, why isn’t she helping?)

These revelations are overshadowed, however, as Emily discovers the truth behind her separation from her mother: Anne is pregnant. Stunned, Emily tries to navigate this twist and what it means for her life. She quickly realizes that she will be the baby's caretaker if she lives with her mother, unless Anne makes some major lifestyle changes.

When Anne appears at Nanna and Papa's door unannounced, she demands that Emily pack her bags and move home. Emily responds with, "I'm more a mother to you than you are to me. I don't want to be a mother to your new baby. I don't want to be part of this new family,” and tells Anne that she prefers living with her grandparents to their life together. Anne flees,
avoiding more discussion and leaving Emily behind yet again; this time maybe for good. Emily turns to her friendship with Molly for comfort.

Emily now must decide if she truly does want to stay with her grandparents (look, she’s 11. She’s got about zero say in the matter legally) and potentially develop a relationship with her father or take the risk of living with her mother and sibling. She surprises herself by longing for a complete family with everyone involved. (this is a surprise?) She hopes Anne can change, but is afraid to trust her. (no kidding)

The climax of the story occurs when Emily confronts her mother for the last time and makes her decision about where she will live. For the first time, Emily expresses her true wishes, and tells Anne that she won't leave unless Anne takes more responsibility for their life as a family and introduces her to her father. Emily won't let herself be walked on.

Throughout the novel, she has become more assertive of her own needs, but in the end it is the tentative faith that she has in her mother that will give Emily the family that she's been missing - one in which her father plays a role.

You’ve set up the whole father discovery thing and then let it drop. The grandparents, Anne’s parents, seem invisible. Why aren’t they more interested in taking care of Emily? The idea of a “whole family where everyone is involved” is clearly the unrealistic ideal of an eleven year old who wants what she doesn’t have. The synopsis isn’t bad but it reveals fundamental flaws in the novel.

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