Review: Me & Emma by Elizabeth Flock

Me & Emma by Elizabeth Flock

I’d warn against spoilers in this review, but I think Goodreads gives away a lot in its summary. I didn’t actually read that description before reading the book. The back cover portrays the book quite differently. Me & Emma was terribly sad, but also very compelling. It’s told in the voice of 8 year old Carrie, which I really enjoyed. Flock is able to hide some of the details of what’s going on, and it’s believable that they’ve been left out because I assumed that Carrie doesn’t fully understand everything herself because of her age.

In the beginning of the book I appreciated the way the girls seemed to alternate roles – who was the leader, who was the brave one, etc. Later in the book as Carrie began to distance herself from Emma, I felt it was out of character. I didn’t understand how she could send Emma home alone while going off the Mr. Wilson’s or Orla Mae’s alone.

Throughout the whole book I just wanted someone to help the girls: Mr. White, Miss Mary, Gammy, anyone! I predicted one tiny piece of the ending when Carrie befriended Mr. Wilson, but I was still blown away at the close. I am always horribly naive. And as Goodreads says, I am tempted to read it again, but I probably won’t.

I’m sticking with my average rating since that’s how I felt through most of the book. While I did breeze through this book, it was more because I had a lot of spare time this week and because I’m not reading anything else that I am absolutely loving at the moment.

Rating: 3 Stars

This review was originally published on Mom’s Radius.

Me & Emma
Elizabeth Flock
Mira Books
March 1, 2006

The title characters in Me & Emma are very nearly photographic opposites--8-year-old Carrie, the raven-haired narrator, is timid and introverted, while her little sister Emma is a tow-headed powerhouse with no sense of fear. The girls live in a terrible situation: they depend on an unstable mother that has never recovered from her husband's murder, their stepfather beats them regularly, and they must forage on their own for food.

Stop here and you have a story told many times before, as fiction and nonfiction in tales like Ellen Foster, or I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings --stories in which a young girl reveals the horrors of her childhood. Me & Emma differentiates itself with a spectacular finish, shocking the reader and turning the entire story on its head. Through several twists and turns the reader learns that things are not quite the way our narrator led us to believe and everything crescendos in a way that (like all good thrillers) immediately makes you want to go back and read the whole book again from the start.

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