The Writer by Emily Sun Li

By Ekta R. Garg

February 6, 2013

Rated: Borrow it

A young woman realizes she has an unusual gift when she starts seeing letters dancing in the air.  She discovers the ability to write stories and joins an elite writing organization responsible for creating new worlds with their words.  When one of the writers decides the time has come for some drastic life changes, that writer’s selfish intentions threaten the universe itself.  Teenager Emily Sun Li offers readers this interesting premise in her debut novel, The Writer, a book that in its tone hearkens back to young adult literature from a previous generation.

Main character June Adams finds herself dissatisfied with her life.  She lives in the land of Pren, a place where flowers bloom, everyone always has enough to eat, and the weather changes from one season to another in the blink of an eye.  But one day letters start to appear in the air around items and begin educating June on new and fantastic ideas.  The first word to appear is “pencil,” and once she fashions a pencil for herself her imagination slowly begins to open itself literally to a whole new world: June creates a world she calls Earth and makes it as different from Pren as possible.

Soon, however, June learns her talent hasn’t appeared out of thin air; she is a Writer and the Council of Writers summons her to educate her on her responsibility toward the world she created and the Writer she must create in the future.  Among others at the council meeting June meets Vivien, the Master Writer and head of the Council of Writers; Victor, Vivien’s son and the creator of Pren; and Rosemary, another Writer.  June and Rosemary soon become best friends, and the girls share June’s first adventures on Earth together in a way that deepens their friendship.

Once she arrives on Earth to explore the world she has created June meets Jackson, who becomes the love of her life throughout the course of the book.  All seems to progress well for June, but she doesn’t know that one of the Writers on the Council has become disgruntled with the state of life.  Soon June becomes entangled in a complicated situation that threatens her talent and those she has come to love.  When she finds herself in a position to make a change, she doesn’t know if she has the guts to make the decision to save everyone.

Author Li shows a fair amount of maturity in several places in her writing.  Early in the book she describes the dancing letters June sees:

“The symbols stumbled over each other like children with shoes three sizes too big and the promise that they would someday grow into them.”

Li’s writing style, too, may remind adult readers of children’s books from the 1970s like Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson or The Neverending Story by Michael Ende.  The Writer shares the same gentle narration that slowly draws readers into worlds of fantasy and with a similar manner of addressing young readers as fully capable of understanding advanced concepts while simultaneously retaining the innocence of childhood.  Li handles this mature writer’s method with ease.

Still, Li’s young age becomes apparent in matters of the plot itself.  Once June leaves Pren, readers don’t hear much about that world throughout the rest of the book.  June’s homeland makes a brief appearance when another Writer visits it, but the appearance is just that: brief.  In an attempt to move the main plot forward, Li seems content to forfeit other portions of the story and readers may end the book wondering about minor plot points.

Overall, however, Li’s book shows promise, and should she continue to hone her craft, The Writer will become the first in a long line of enjoyable works by this young woman.  This reviewer wholeheartedly recommends The Writer for readers who enjoy young adult fiction and a look at writers who can make an impact in the future.


What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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