Book Review: Emily for Real by Sylvia Gunnery

Synopsis: Emily’s life is a mess. Her boyfriend dumps her, her grandfather dies, her best friend is too busy for her, and her family-life is like a soap opera. Then Emily meets Leo, and his life is just as messed-up as her own.

Author: Sylvia Gunnery was inspired to write authentic stories by through her years of teaching. She has written many young adult novels and also books for children. Sylvia gives writing workshops for young authors all across Canada.

Cover: The artwork consists of four main colours, that of blue, red, green, and white.  The front is actually rather attention grabbing, singling out a photo album and a cut up picture in the top half of the cover and trailing down to the bottom right corner.

Note to Reader: While the reading level is that of twelve and up, the book has subject matter more suitable for a mature teenager. The main character is a seventeen-year-old girl who goes to parties with drinking and gets in potentially sexual situations.

Writing Style: The story is rather disjointed, taking a stream of consciousness approach. The overall aesthetic is that of the main character telling the reader about her life, rather than drawing the reader into it and allowing them to experience it alongside the character.

Location: The novel takes place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but never actually says so directly. There are clues by the names of places and of nearby towns, that would be familiar to those who live there. As the novel also mentions Montreal and Toronto, it allows the uninformed reader to know it is at least in Canada.

Plot: There really didn’t seem to be a storyline at all, but more a depiction of a few weeks in the life of Emily. It is a bunch of events that would normally be unrelated which became connected as they were all happening to one individual. This slice-of-life approach added an element of believability to what felt like multiple plotlines thrust upon one character.

Relationship: When Emily and Leo meet, the reader expects their lives will intersect and make each important to the other. The two do tend to rely on one another whenever there is upheaval in their life, but not in a way you would expect friends to behave. It doesn’t quite feel like a real friendship, but more that Emily and Leo use each other for company because they don’t have anyone else.

Character: Caroline is Leo’s sister, and the most believable person in the novel. She is an adorable kid who has no control over her life, is uncertain around strangers, goes quiet when her elders are upset, and unconditionally adores her older brother.  Caroline behaves as any impressionable six-year-old might, and is therefore quite likeable.

Personal Thoughts: The novel felt as though it was merely skimming the surface of Emily’s life. Nothing that happened to Emily felt like it was real for it lacked a depth of emotion, and too many things were being thrown at her at once.

Quote: I already know that life has its ups and downs, that there’s more fish in the sea, that love can be cruel, and any other cliché that’s supposed to make you feel good but only makes you want to puke.

The Verdict: This novel wasn’t anything like I expected. Rather than being a young adult romantic comedy, it was an arbitrary unfolding of events. While it is a quick and easy read, the book isn’t something I would likely pick up again. This novel would be suitable for grade seven through twelve students, but isn’t a novel that can be enjoyed by all generations.

 Previous Reviews: Acts of Courage,  Angelina’s SecretThe Ship of Lost SoulsPrincess for Hire



Author: JaimeKristal

JaimeKristal is a freelance editor and writer. She started her book review blog "Tales of a Booklover" for the enjoyment of sharing her love of reading.

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