Book Review: Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner

Book: Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner

Published June 2018 by Feiwel & Friends|265 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

In Adrienne Kisner’s Dear Rachel Maddow, a high school girl deals with school politics and life after her brother’s death by drafting emails to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow in this funny and heartfelt YA debut.

Brynn Haper’s life has one steadying force–Rachel Maddow.

She watches her daily, and after writing to Rachel for a school project–and actually getting a response–Brynn starts drafting e-mails to Rachel but never sending them. Brynn tells Rachel about breaking up with her first serious girlfriend, about her brother Nick’s death, about her passive mother and even worse stepfather, about how she’s stuck in remedial courses at school and is considering dropping out.

Then Brynn is confronted with a moral dilemma. One student representative will be allowed to have a voice among the administration in the selection of a new school superintendent. Brynn’s archnemesis, Adam, and ex-girlfriend, Sarah, believe only Honors students are worthy of the selection committee seat. Brynn feels all students deserve a voice. When she runs for the position, the knives are out. So she begins to ask herself: What Would Rachel Maddow Do?

I really wanted to like this one more than I actually did.  I’m not sure what I was expecting this book to be, but it, for the most part, didn’t work for me.

So, Dear Rachel Maddow is told through emails to Rachel Maddow.  We learn what’s going on in Brynn’s life as she tells her story to Rachel.  I think, based on the title, I was expecting something more political.  I was expecting more of an election story than something deal with drug use and child abuse.  It was unexpected, but please keep that in mind if you pick up this book.  Maybe that’s why I didn’t like it as much as I thought- it seemed like it would be more light-hearted and fun, and the book turned out to be…well, not light-hearted and fun like the summary says.

I particularly hated her stepfather, who seems irritated he has to deal with step-children.  I mean, I understand that her brother died from what seems to be a drug overdose (it’s never stated outright how he died, but it’s strongly implied that’s what it was) and he doesn’t want her to end up like her brother.  But how does kicking her out, and insisting she’s going to contribute to the household (while not letting her go to her job) make things any better?  Don’t get me wrong, if they want her to get a job and pay rent once she’s 18, that’s fine.  But making it sound like her retail job isn’t a real job and generally treating her the way he does didn’t get any sympathy points from me.

Her remedial classes seemed a little odd.  It’s high school, but it seems like these teachers cover multiple subjects and have aides and tutors.  I was never placed in remedial classes, and I took mostly non-honors classes with a few honors classes sprinkled in.  Maybe it seems odd because that wasn’t my experience in high school.

I did like that she wanted all students to be heard, and not just a select few.  I think that was my favorite thing about Dear Rachel Maddow.  Throughout the book, you can definitely see that Brynn (and those like her) seem to get overlooked, and I liked seeing how important it was to her that all students were represented.

I’m still not sure how I feel about the story being told through e-mail.  I don’t know if it’s just me, but I don’t think I’m a huge fan of the whole writing letters/emails to a famous person, whether they’re dead or alive.  It does look like she got a response back from Rachel Maddow, and I kind of wish we had actually seen the e-mail back.  Especially considering we see emails from other people to Brynn, and emails between the principal and parents.  And it seems like a thing that she got a reply, so why not include it?

2 stars.  This book was okay, but I’m pretty sure it’s a better fit for someone else.

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