cover image When Reason Breaks

When Reason Breaks

Cindy L. Rodriguez. Bloomsbury, $17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-61963-412-1

First-time author Rodriguez cleverly represents Emily Dickinson’s dark side and her reclusive tendencies through the two distinct personalities of her teenage heroines, who are studying the poet in English class. Elizabeth Davis, who enjoys visiting a nearby cemetery, is fascinated with death, but her expression of it through drawings and journal entries have gotten her into trouble at school. Classmate Emily Delgado is not nearly as bold, keeping her despair a secret, but the pressure of being the perfect daughter of a rising politician is becoming too heavy a burden to bear. After the girls team for a project on Dickinson, Elizabeth’s ideas are misinterpreted, causing her to become enraged, while Emily, absorbed in conflicts with old friends and the boy she likes, spirals into depression. The question remains whether, in the heat of their individual crises, the newly formed friendship between Elizabeth and Emily can survive. If the numerous allusions to Dickinson’s life (pointed out in an author’s note) are somewhat forced at times, the inner torment of the two main characters and the book’s psychologically intense climax remain gripping. Ages 13–up. Agent: Laura Langlie. (Feb.)