Dear Rachel Maddow
by Adrienne Kisner
Who needs Dear Diary or Dear Abby when you have Rachel Maddow?
Brynn Harper's life is not a bowl of cherries. She's a lesbian living a closeted life with her ultra-conservative mother and abusive stepfather. She struggles with basic schoolwork because the letters and words dance before her eyes. Her older brother died two years before from an accidental overdose. And everyone, or almost everyone, believes she'll die the same way even though she's never taken a single drug.
Brynn's school life is no better as she's been relegated to the "Applied" section in the blue room of the basement, just trying to get through her days until she turns eighteen and can finally leave all the negative behind.
When Brynn is asked to write to a celebrity hero for a school assignment, she picks Rachel Maddow, mostly because Brynn's mother would go nuts if she found out. When Rachel responds, it starts a whirlwind of movement in Brynn's life starting with school politics and ending with the beautiful new girl who comes to peer-tutor in the blue room.
Life is never easy and fighting is always hard but Brynn may just have everything she needs to get through it all if she can just see it right in front of her eyes.
Final thoughts: Solid realistic YA fiction. Brynn's stepdad is pretty evil and it's difficult to see why her mom stays with him but that's true for many dysfunctional families, so that all fits. It's so difficult to read stories like these especially when you know how true they are in this world. I love Brynn's voice. She's so real and raw and sometimes so very oblivious. The ending isn't a happily ever after, but it's real and true. I wish the dyslexia had been diagnosed and discussed rather than just implied, but it was still good to see that kind of realistic depiction of a learning disability.
ARC courtesy of NetGalley and MacMillan Children's Publishing Group