By Rob Rener and Jessica Gruner
Published by HarperCollins Children's Books
ISBN 978 0 00 7454006
You may well have heard of Emily the Strange. You could even be wearing her face on your T-shirt or have a pencil case featuring her image. If you somehow manage to avoid Hong Kong character trends and don't have a clue who the enigmatic Emily is, then Piece of Mind, the fourth book in a series, is a good place to meet her.
You will be highly entertained by Emily's kooky personality, off-the-wall family and quite incredible exploits. She decides it's about time to dig into her background and discover a bit about the Stranges who have gone before. Emily is the 13th Dark Girl and wants to know a bit more about the Black Rock, the strong and very special power that connects her to the good side of her ancestors.
Don't expect to relate to Emily in any way as you get to know her. She has ghosts for aunts, can travel through time and has built herself a golem (a living creature created from inanimate material) called Raven who acts as servant and companion. Emily is very much an individual and all this is part of her appeal: readers never know what she is going to do next or where her story is going to go.
Lavishly illustrated in Emily's trademark black and red, and filled to the brim with her unique personality, Piece of Mind is presented in the form of a diary, complete with to-do lists and comments in the margins - a conventional novel wouldn't suit our heroine. Her curious and determined personality with all its ups and downs and asides is the essence of the book. The plot is secondary to the character.
But plot there is. Emily travels to Seasidetown to delve into her heritage, taking her four cats and personal golem with her, of course. In Seasidetown, a thought-thief, her family nemesis Attikol, and nefarious city mayor all get in her way as she hunts down her personal black rock.
Black rock is bizarre stuff, but it is essential to Emily and it is essential that she follows instructions she has received about how to track it down. She doesn't expect to find her arch enemy to stand in her way, or the added distraction of the thought-thief throwing several spanners in the works. Could all the mayhem Emily finds in Seasidetown be there to cut her off from the vital supply of the mysterious substance?
Readers who are tired of all the forlorn love elements that have crept into gothic teen novels of late will find this adventure a refreshing diversion. Weird, gothic, brilliant, bizarre, Emily the Strange is the centre of this novel, and there are no soppy distractions.
Emily's diary begins with a quote from American writer Mark Twain: "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education". Likewise, Emily lets nothing interfere with her being herself.
Marvel, and enjoy!
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com