Full disclosure: in high school I loved Emily the Strange and had one or two (or eight) of her t-shirts. My favorite was a long sleeve black shirt that had a picture of Emily the Strange in her laboratory poking at a brain in a jar with one of her cats looking on nearby, with a caption like “Emily loves to pick your brain”. For a sassy, dark humored teen, what’s not to love?
Emily the Strange is a 13-year-old punk rock loner who loves her 4 black cats. She dresses in all black, has long black hair, and an attitude to match. Originally featured on stickers, posters, and t-shirts, Emily now has graphic novels, comic books, YA novels, and apparently video games about her. Supposedly there’s even a (stalled?) animated movie in the works. She’s expanded her empire since the early internet store days with classic t-shirts such as “Your silence is golden” with Emily plugging her ears, “Emily didn’t search to belong. She searched to be lost.”, and her take on an American war recruitment meme “I WANT YOU…to leave me alone”. She loves the creepy and spooky, priding herself in being strange. However, she’s anything but one-dimensional as she is a musician, scientist, and artist in addition to being a troublemaker with her slingshot always at the ready. Emily is unique and revels in it, not caring what anyone else thinks about her.
The lost days by Rob Reger and Jessica Gruner is illustrated by Rob Reger and Buzz Parker. This young adult novel is written in a journal style with many doodles, notations, and drawn Polaroid pictures as if they were taped in. Emily also loves her lists and they’re always 13 items long. The format is very appealing because every page has some little doodle or large picture, so it breaks up the overall text, which is written more like a journal or diary than actual chapters in a book. The style also makes it very quick read since there’s no forced end/chapter breaks to the story, the reader just flows from one page to the next. There are headings for each day in the novel, but this is tied more closely into the storyline itself rather than being a distinctive marker of a particular section or chapter.
The story is very compelling, since when we first meet who we know is Emily the strange, she does not even know herself. She is suffering from amnesia and unsure why in an unfamiliar town with no one who seems to know her. The mystery only further ensues as the novel progresses, making it as perplexing for the reader as Emily herself as she tries to figure out just what is going on with her in this small town of strangers. The mystery, mood, and tone of the story and novel fit very well into the culture and personality that is Emily the Strange. The end is also very satisfying when the mastermind plot is fully revealed; Reger and his team did well to write not just a great story for fans but also for anyone who happens to read the novel, not knowing anything about the Emily the Strange universe.
Since I donated all my Emily the Strange t-shirts around the time I went to college, I haven’t followed the website anymore. The series of four novels was a complete surprise to me when one of my husband’s middle schooler’s requested that he borrowed them for the classroom from the local library. When he brought them home from the library, I just had to read them before they went off school for the kiddos!
Recommended?: Definitely for all Emily the Strange fans, lovers of darkly quirky stories and characters (such as Tim Burton fans), and YA journal format. This book is a fun, super-quick read with a compelling mystery up to the very end. True to character, Emily the Strange is still her truly strange self throughout The Lost Days, even if she doesn’t remember.