Review: Dear Reader by Mary O’Connell

I resent main characters that are social pariahs. It’s okay if they’re a group of social pariahs, but just a lone soul in high school that’s an outcast because she likes to read? Unrealistic. I was hoping I could push that aside because the plot seemed intriguing.

Flannery Fields is hates the girls at her school because they are mean. The only person she likes at school is her beloved AP English teacher, Ms. Sweeney. When one day she goes missing without her purse, Flannery knows something is wrong. She gives them the purse but keeps Ms. Sweeney’s copy of Withering Heights with her. When she opens up the book, she finds out that its actually become Ms. Sweeney’s real time diary. She sets out to New York, meets a boy names Heath, and tries to save her teacher.

Flannery was the worst. She was filled with this woe-is-me teenage angst but still tried to make everyone believe that she was truly more mature than every other girl in the school. Her desperate need for validation was nauseating and I wouldn’t have wanted to be in the same class with her in real life. If she was okay with being an outcast, she may have been tolerable, but she was hellbent on the idea that the only reason she wasn’t liked was because she wasn’t like those girls. In turn, she hated them. In addition to that, she has this unhealthy obsession with Ms. Sweeney. I had teachers I related to and liked but they never dictate by inner monologue. That’s pathetic. But seeing that Flannery is as shallow as a kiddie pool, I’m not surprised. She was also super pretentious. She truly believed that she only had the right ideas and only because the other girls read icky YA fiction instead of good, wholesome, old books. In short, Flannery was the worst character I’ve ever read.

Ms. Sweeney was literally Flannery as a grown woman except even more pretentious because she already went to Columbia! She knows everything! She is right all the time! I don’t even think she deserved to be a teacher with the attitude she had toward her students. I know that, ideally, your students should be engaged in the syllabus but if they’re doing their work without and problem doesn’t that mean they deserve a good grade? Just because their views aren’t on par with your own doesn’t mean they need to be punished. I’m also convinced that the author had never talked to a teenager before. What AP senior student says that Anne Frank is boring? A badly written fictional one. Ms. Sweeney seemed so engrossed in her life that she could barely work efficiently rather be a good teacher. And every time she cried “feminism” I wanted to rip this book. Feminism isn’t pitting perfectly good students against each other because only one side shares the same opinions as you on books. This is books we’re talking about not rights.

The writing itself was too flowery and over the top. I could care less for Ms. Sweeney’s corrections, I just wanted to read the story. What surprised me the most was how the author constantly criticized teens who read popular YA fiction when that’s exactly who this novel is catered book. Surprise! Girls who pick up your chick lit novel have probably read Twilight and Hunger Games! How can you actually criticize the reader of your novel? The same audience you’re trying to appeal to? This novel was filled with the pretentiousness of a person whose read all the classics and somehow thinks that makes them superior.

The plot was all over the place and super unrealistic. Flannery should’ve been dead at the end of this book because she really shouldn’t be talking to that many strangers. Meaningful topics were used as cheap plot devices (see: mental illnesses) and the shallow characters only did what was expected of them. There was no closure and the ending still made no sense. Basically all characters, except for Flannery, disappear off the face of the Earth.

Final Thoughts: I don’t know who this book would be engaging to. And I apologize for the rant.



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