Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: June 5th, 2018
YA LGBT Contemporary Fiction, 272 pages
If you are interested in politics or high school debate, then this is a novel for you!
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?
This was a young adult coming of age debut by this author, that I had received as an arc at YallWest in 2018. I didn’t know a lot about it going into it, but found myself curious to pick it up.
What hooked me on this book was, it was told entirely in email format. I thought this was such a cool idea, and I had not read anything like it except for Charlie’s letters in Perks of Being a Wallflower, years ago.
The story follows Brynn as she navigates her way through life, high school, and all the people in her life that seem to continually let her down. To cope and organize her thoughts, she emails Rachel Maddow in a journal like fashion.
There was both good and bad components to this novel, and I’m going to have to go into a certain amount of detail to discuss them.
I loved it and then I lost it.
This has not motivated me.
Loss isn’t motivating.
LGBTQ community, there was a heavy aspect of pride, mentioned many times in the novel, as Brynn herself was openly lesbian.
Politics, this novel was also mainly based on the storyline of Brynn having to run for Student body president so that everyone had a fair voice. It made me increasingly interested in learning more about politics, and to become a more politically active.
About two thirds of the way into the novel it was really getting a bit slow. I was mainly trying to push through at that point, and the campaign necessities didn’t help. Right around that part, the presidential candidates had to make videos to represent themselves and explain why students should vote for them. I was pretty disappointed in the results of this, as it was a big group project and Brynn didn’t see the final edition. So at the big reveal, Adam’s video was him snickering at her because her GPA wasn’t as high as his. Later we found out it was so short because the rest got pulled for being too mean. When Brynn’s came on for the big reveal, it was her in a zombie form killing another zombie that tried to attack the camera man. It ended with the camera guy saying thanks, and her responding in a zombie voice, I won’t leave you when time get tough, or something along those lines. At the end of the entry to Rachel, she goes on to say that political involvement is not dead. It is undead. Not only were the videos both disappointing, in the slowest part of the novel, but followed by that pun?
I was also really upset at how her stepfather seemed to be getting worse throughout the story. For him, nothing had really changed, so why did he become violent all of a sudden? I also hated her mom just as equally, because all she did was sulk.
Overall, 3.5/5 star rating for me. It was interesting enough to keep me reading all the way through, it was just maybe longer than it had to be.
Thanks for reading! Mara x