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Saturday, June 2, 2018

Book Review: Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner

Brynn is assigned to write a letter to someone she admires, so she picks Rachel Maddow. To her utter shock, Rachel writes back! Now her teacher wants her to respond. Brynn's not so cool with that (especially because the teacher-suggested topics are dorky/bleh.) I mean, she does write back to Rachel Maddow--hundreds of letters--but she just saves them in her drafts folder and uses that format kind of like a journal. And through writing to Rachel, she starts to deal with her brother's death from a drug overdose last year, her subsequent banishment to a basement classroom for remedial students (she could not keep her grades up after his death), being dumped by her first girlfriend, and her terrible situation at home with her super-jerk of an abusive step-father.

She's pretty  wrung out by everything she's dealing with, and then one day, her ex comes along with one of the school jerks to ask Brynn to sign a petition. It seems that the school board is actually allowing a student representative to help pick the next superintendent, and the petition is to make sure the representative is the best possible, and therefore is an honors student. That's the last straw for Brynn. She decides she wants to beat him and if that means she has to run against him, she will, with the help of her friends in the basement, a new smart girlfriend, and possibly even Rachel Maddow (at least the Rachel Maddow in Brynn's head). Will this help Brynn pull her life back together? Will her life ever stop being a dumpster fire? Will she ever get her grades up enough to get back on the school newspaper?

Things don't go exactly where you think they're going to go and they don't resolve in the way you'd predict, but they still resolve in a very satisfying and true-to-the-characters way, which I actually liked better than the predictable version in my mind at the beginning of the book. Brynn is profane, tries to be hard-hearted, and is in the end very endearing, and I think despite the setbacks she's had, she's setting herself up to live a full and satisfying life, and one where maybe Rachel Maddow is her penpal.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

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