Title: I, Emma Freke
Author: Elizabeth Atkinson
Publisher: Recorded Books, 2011 (print version available from Carolrhoda Books, 2010)
Narrator: Ali Ahn
Emma Freke considers herself to be, well, a freak. She is almost 6 feet tall, has bright red hair and has a name she can't believe her mother gave her. "Am A Freak"? What could be worse? She doesn't know who her father is and never gets a straight answer out of her mother or grandfather. Plus, her mother Donatella won't win any prizes for mother of the year. After a huge misunderstanding about Emma starting to homeschool, she feels worse than ever. At least she has her friend, 10-year-old Penelope, to cheer her up; she also is able to finish up the school year with a hip librarian tutor at the library.
When she gets an unexpected invitation to the annual Freke Family Reunion, however, things really start to look up for Emma. Will she finally feel like she's found where she belongs?
The audio version was good. Though I thought Ahn sounded a bit too mature to narrate for 12-year-old Emma at first, she grew on me. She did a great job at giving each character distinct voices, though at times I thought I would probably have read dialogue in a different way than she intoned it on the recording.
This was a short, sweet book about a girl who can't seem to find her place in the world. Very big in size and trying to be very small in all other ways, Emma feels like an outsider in her own family. She looks nothing like her 5-foot-tall mother, an aging yet lively and eccentric (albeit flakey) Italian with lots of boyfriends. Though she's very intelligent and kindhearted, Emma can only see her flaws and what makes her different. Though this sounds like a sad story, it's got a lot of heart and happiness with the message to be happy with who you are, minus the cheese.
The characters are certainly not stock. Differences abound, from a tattooed lost cousin to a spunky adopted girl from Liberia with lesbian parents (PS this is not made into a big deal, it just is, and I love that), to the loud-mouthed and irresponsible Donatella to the joke-cracking black sheep of the Freke family. It's a varied and entertaining cast that I enjoyed reading about.
And through it all, Emma finds her voice and, as the "gray moms" said, her "joyla."
Disclosure: I got this audiobook from the library.