We meet Emily as she preparing for her GCSE examinations. But everything goes wrong. She finds it increasingly difficult to concentrate as tragedy rears its head at home and she is utterly distracted by the arrival of handsome and mysterious Dylan, particularly as their relationship blossoms. Her education and looming potential qualifications begin to fade into irrelevance for her and I can understand that. Knowing what she must endure, within the pages of the book, I admire her for even trying.
But trying is what her mum wants. And it becomes something of a last wish; a wish that Emily takes seriously and vows to stick to, no matter what else is thrown her way. She displays great strength here, I think, and she soon starts to demonstrate that she is becoming wiser than her years. Despite further grief and horrors lurking around the corner, Emily takes every single exam. And I applaud her.
Here is an excerpt from Black Eyed Boy:
“I’m okay. I’m sorry you missed school. You should be there. I want you to do well in your exams, Emily,” she said, quite sternly.
“We’re leaving next week anyway” I said. “I can still revise here.”
The last thing that I wanted was for her to feel guilty; I wouldn’t be able to take that. It wasn’t her fault that this despicable disease had found her. And, like Mrs Bishop said, it couldn’t be helped.
“The doctor said that I would probably want to sleep a lot. God knows I’m tired. I don’t want you watching over me like a hawk, you have your own life to lead, and I know that. And if you put the work in now, you’ll have a better life in years to come. You’re a clever girl, Emily. You don’t need to look after me, and there’s nothing that you can do anyway. Do you hear me?”
I felt exceptionally hurt by that. I knew that it was a “cruel to be kind” speech, but did she honestly expect me to pretend that she wasn’t terminally ill? If I didn’t look after her, who the hell would? Dad? What was he going to do, except get drunker as the weeks rolled on? I was annoyed, but I didn’t want an argument. She’d only just got home.