Jared’s Totally Unsolicited And Completely Subjective Review Of: Dear Edward, by Ann Napolitano!
This novel, by my overall sense of The Internets of All The Opinions, is quite a popular and well-received tome.
I will thus go through the wall and come out bloody with the unpopular opinion. Not in service of being contrarian, but in spirit of when (as a reader) one gives hours of one’s life to a story, it does little good to be disingenuous about that experience.
Now! Caveats/preface as usual!
I’ve said this before: I *admire the heck outta writers*, especially published ones. I am a writer. I aim to be published one day. Thus as it pertains to the former, I have a sense of what it is to proverbially bleed over a keyboard day in and out, trying to type fast enough to keep ahead of doubt. Consequently, I long to give every book I read – regardless of subject matter or style – 10-stars-outta-5, because I’m just so freakin’ proud of the author for hanging their soul out there. For bringing the art inside of them out and giving to the world something that didn’t exist before they bled on the keys. So Ann Napolitano, I salute you, and my highly generalized and suspiciously subjective opinion – just as 99.99% of those on the Internets of ATO – means little. I don’t know you from my neighbors (modern city life, amirite), but I know this novel came from a beautiful place of passion, so my opinion of *that* is we all ought to celebrate you for it.
But now for the jackassery of a ???/5 stars grading. I could never be Simon Cowell, it appears.
🌟🌟🌟/5. Oh my. I feel like I need to go vomit or something.
Background: I normally let my reading journey happen organically. I’m not part of a book club or have a formal reading list; I’m wayyy too whimsical for such discipline. I find one book somehow naturally leads to another; perhaps a subject or character was raised in the current read that led to interest in another (when Stephen King mentioned the character Jack Reacher in Under the Dome, for instance, which led me to Lee Child’s prolific series). And thus it’s usually only when I deviate from this natural river of reading that I get myself into trouble – book slumps, general reading malaise, high literary fever, etc.
That tangent was all by way of saying that I was (and still am) seeing the cover of Dear Edward via innumerable #bookstagram posts, and it piqued my interest, so I deviated. It’s also my admittance that any time one reads out of a sense of ‘should’, rather than desire, it’s perhaps putting undue pressure on the art and artist to meet expectations they never asked for in the first place.
Now certainly, deviation from one’s norm is not of itself a bad thing, and certainly not the sole (or a good enough) reason for my lukewarm experience reading it. Nevertheless I got sucked in, friends. Your reviews swayed me and I paddled my kayak to the shore to check out the banks and forest beside. And thus ’twasn’t long before I felt lost and longed for the current to lead me back again. Yes, I wrung that metaphor out like a child delighting in their first successful knock-knock joke. OK YES I GET IT JIMMY I’M VERY GLAD YOU DIDN’T SAY BANANA.
Anyway! Plane crash? I’m in. (I would have given you a spoiler warning, but if you didn’t know that element by now then you apparently have an I.A.T.O (see above) deficiency, friend.) Multiple story arcs? I’m *cautiously* in. (Those need to be handled deftly, and on this front I will give Ms. Napolitano props, as I felt she did.) Sole survivor stories? You bet. That segues nicely to the synopsis.
Synopsis (courtesy of the Penguin Random House website): “One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Among them are a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured veteran returning from Afghanistan, a business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. Halfway across the country, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor.
Edward’s story captures the attention of the nation, but he struggles to find a place in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a part of himself has been left in the sky, forever tied to the plane and all of his fellow passengers. But then he makes an unexpected discovery—one that will lead him to the answers of some of life’s most profound questions: When you’ve lost everything, how do you find the strength to put one foot in front of the other? How do you learn to feel safe again? How do you find meaning in your life?
Dear Edward is at once a transcendent coming-of-age story, a multidimensional portrait of an unforgettable cast of characters, and a breathtaking illustration of all the ways a broken heart learns to love again.”
So what did I think?: It was a decent read. 3/5 ain’t half bad, it’s closer to the top than the bottom, so let’s try to remember that. (I do believe that reassurance was more for me than you, Dear Reader.) I was engaged in the beginning, the middle lulled, and while it picked up again toward the end (Ms. Napolitano really makes you wait for the payoff), I had the Readers Worst Feeling – wanting the book to conclude. Not because it was poor, but I was just ready for resolution (I still needed to know what happened, after all!). As mentioned the multiple story-lines were handled well; if anything I wanted more from some of the characters, particularly during the second act where there was some detritus with Edward’s story-line. Yes, many of the characters were clichéd, but perhaps that’s just a natural result of trying to juggle so many in tight quarters (pun neither intended nor avoided here). There were several heartfelt moments, and it was in those – even though I couldn’t quite connect with the passion – where I could feel it from Ann.
The biggest issue I struggled with was difficulty believing Edward was a 12-15 year old boy. He seemed like an adult in a boy’s body – and before you jump Dear Reader, yes, I realize he just survived a plane crash and lost his family and was bearing the weight of 183 souls plus their loved ones and that’s bound to age a person quick-fast-and-in-a-hurry and lead to all kinds of existential crises. I understand that factor. It’s no secret ’round these parts that I read me a fair amount of Stephen King, whose tales regularly feature characters in that age range. When I read those stories, I somehow remember what it was like to be twelve, even if back then I thought I was going on twenty-five. With Edward, I didn’t feel like I was reading a 12 year old’s experience (albeit one I’ve never had); I felt like I very well could have been reading my own. Wait. I just realized that doesn’t say much for my development. Nevertheless, let’s carry on.
Even if I have aged somewhat from the early 1990’s, I currently have a 12 year old child (maybe that’s why we get along so well, ha! And the self-deprecation continues), as well as a 15 year old one. It was a challenge to recognize them in Edward’s thoughts and actions. But again, I’m not the parent of a 12-15 year old orphaned survivor of an airplane crash; if I was, well, then you’re not reading this review.
My last beef – and this one is really the cuts-to-the-guts part for me to write – is I wasn’t wooed by the language. I’m not expecting to be, with every single cover I open, but I sure love when it happens. I could tell Ann was trying, and I really wanted to be moved, but maybe it was in that awareness of being presented with Hallmark moments that I balked, and rather than feeling moved I was just conscious of the saccharine nature of the words. And they are, after all, my love language, which is why I loathe to use them here in anything less than resounding praise. But, Dear Reader, you came here to find out what I thought/felt/experienced reading this particular title, and there you have it.
So, would I recommend it? Sure, it’s good for – well, maybe not a flight, but a travel or beach read. One could certainly do worse. As for me, I’m getting back in my kayak, and letting the reading river flow.