Book Review: The Thing With Feathers

The Thing With Feathers – McCall Hoyle – Blink – Published 5 September 2017




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.”

My thoughts

The Thing With Feathers is a sweet and simple story of new experiences, facing fears, and learning to reach out and trust others.

Emilie Day is beginning her first day at public high school after years of being home schooled. Her mother believes school will be good for Emilie’s emotional and social well being – sure, if you don’t take into account all the things that could go wrong. Emilie is worried that her new classmates will find out about her epilepsy – but worse would be if she has a seizure at school in front of everyone. Determined to keep apart from everyone, Emilie isn’t prepared for her charming classmate Chatham York or the friendly girls from the lit mag. Soon, Emilie will have to chose if hiding her secret is worth risking her new-found friendships.

The Thing With Feathers gives young adults with epilepsy an important voice in this novel. It is wonderful to see it so openly discussed. I can totally understand Emilie’s feelings of fear and her reluctance to disclose her diagnosis to her classmates. High school is brutal. But Emilie’s preconceived ideas that everyone else has the perfect life while she alone is different are quickly challenged. As she opens up to her classmates, she learns that they too face broken families, heartbreak, or other challenges.

Chatham is your stereotypical YA golden boy – blond, surfer, and well liked by all. He very quickly charms Emilie. Their attraction is pretty instantaneous, which develops as they work together on their English project. Unfortunately, as Emilie keeps her secret from him for so long, it is hard not to feel as if their relationship was founded on half-truths and didn’t have the depth it could have.

In addition to her fear about exposing her epilepsy, Emilie struggles with anxiety, grief over losing her father to cancer three years ago, and her changing relationship with her mother. Emily Dickinson’s poetry is referenced a lot, drawing parallels between her and Emilie. I enjoyed Emilie’s grand gesture at the end, but would have loved if this was followed by more intimate discussions with her friends to repair the bonds of trust.

The Thing with Feathers was a very quick read, clean, and suitable for young adult readers of all ages.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction.

Genre: Contemporary

Themes: Epilepsy, service dogs, high school, trust, family, mothers, grief, anxiety, relationships, romance, poetry, Emily Dickinson.

Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.

Advisory:  —

Published:  5 September 2017 by Blink.

Format: Hardcover, ebook. 304 pages.

ISBN: 9780310758518

Find it on Goodreads


  1. kozbisa

    This sounds lovely. Cancer stories kill me since my dad’s diagnosis, but I still read them.

    • Madison's Library

      Oh no, Sam. I’m so sorry to hear about your Dad. You are brave to keep reading these types of stories – though you are right, this is a sweet book.

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