Book Review: Dear Edward

Inspired by a true story of one child’s incredible survival–riveting, uplifting, unforgettable.

After losing everything, a young boy discovers there are still reasons for hope in this luminous, life-affirming novel, perfect for fans of Celeste Ng and Ann Patchett.

In the face of tragedy, what does it take to find joy?

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 is a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured vet returning from Afghanistan, a septuagenarian business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. And then, tragically, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor.

Edward’s story captures the attention of the nation, but he struggles to find a place for himself in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a piece of him 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 find yourself? How do you discover your purpose? What does it mean not just to survive, but to truly live?

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.

Let me just say that this is NOT the kind of book that you’ll find yourself reading during a flight.

“Dear Edward” by Ann Napolitano is a coming-of-age novel about Edward, a twelve-year-old boy who was the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed 191 passengers on board including his parents and brother. As the story unfolds, we get a perspective on the meteoric changes in Edward’s life as he was suddenly placed under the care of his childless aunt and her husband to deal with the tragedy’s aftermath.

Merging alternating timelines is probably the best writing structure to hook the readers to the story. Switching off timelines from Edward’s journey–his struggles to contemplating life anew without his parents to the events leading up to the plane crash allowed a gradual suspension of disbelief and tension. This was skillfully accomplished by the author’s insertion of some of the passengers’ individual experiences, thoughts, faults, apprehensions, and plans for the unforeseeable future into Edward’s narrative.  It is a heartbreaking read all throughout as we would all know what would happen eventually despite what we have come to know of the passengers’ proclivity for a renewed life. It presents life’s ultimate irony: that death is life’s ultimatum.

At times too upsetting to read, yet it also filled me with a reaffirmed sense to value life by changing my course of plans. The compelling truth about fiction is how closely it resembles reality and that the power of storytelling reveals in us the ugly truth of how spontaneous choices could alter not just our lives but of others as well. The narrative’s message is clear: life is short and death is uncertain and what follows is how we choose to deal with it.  

“Dear Edward” has awakened parts of me I thought were already dead: the passion for life, and the need to live for selfless reasons. Napolitano has written a narrative portrait of loss and grief and the strength to overcome the struggles that came with dealing with death. The heavy burden that Edward had to shoulder was not just attributed to the loss of his own family but having to carry the torch that was asked of him by those who were left behind.  How can one boy deal with the burden of having survived a tragedy while others perished?  How can he face life knowing that in exchange for his existence were the deaths of so many?  How can he possibly comply with the demands of the surviving families who wanted him to live the lives of those who died?  What is to become of him now that everyone is watching? These are questions that “Dear Edward” will answer from the perspective of a young boy who knew so little yet had to swallow a big chunk of life’s adversities. Edward’s narrative is one that stings but repairs; breaks but mends. It allows the readers a first-hand experience of life at the clutches of death that is both real and surreal.  One will surely end the book’s final chapter with sentimental tears, a substantial smile, and a pronounced but profound understanding of life. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Ann Napolitano

Genre: Coming of Age Fiction / Literary Fiction / Family Life Fiction

Length: 352 pages

Publisher: The Dial Press (January 6, 2020)

ISBN-10: 198485478X

ISBN-13: 978-1984854780

Book Review: Regretting You

Morgan Grant and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Clara, would like nothing more than to be nothing alike.

Morgan is determined to prevent her daughter from making the same mistakes she did. By getting pregnant and married way too young, Morgan put her own dreams on hold. Clara doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her predictable mother doesn’t have a spontaneous bone in her body.

With warring personalities and conflicting goals, Morgan and Clara find it increasingly difficult to coexist. The only person who can bring peace to the household is Chris—Morgan’s husband, Clara’s father, and the family anchor. But that peace is shattered when Chris is involved in a tragic and questionable accident. The heartbreaking and long-lasting consequences will reach far beyond just Morgan and Clara.

While struggling to rebuild everything that crashed around them, Morgan finds comfort in the last person she expects to, and Clara turns to the one boy she’s been forbidden to see. With each passing day, new secrets, resentment, and misunderstandings make mother and daughter fall further apart. So far apart, it might be impossible for them to ever fall back together.

If only there are precise books on “How to Raise the Perfect Teenagers” then any parent would have invested in those self-help books and somehow raising teens can be a breeze.  But every teen is different as every parent is. Relationships between parents and their children run along different roads ending up different paths.  

There are a lot of novels written along the same lines that the family drama trope can either draw more readers due to its relatability or tagged as overused and redundant that it loses its charm.  But family drama as a literary genre has already established its thematic map. Readers love the conflicts and the resolutions thereafter. “Regretting You” by Colleen Hoover takes the readers to the conflicts that come to light after a tragic accident placed a mother and her daughter’s relationship to the test.  A mostly common trope but one that resonates with mothers and how raising a child was both a struggle and a fulfillment. Morgan and Clara’s narrative sheds light on how a mother finds the strength to raise her only daughter despite the pain and anguish she had to endure while shielding her daughter from the bitter truth of her husband’s accident. 

This novel stretches out beyond the mother and daughter relationship but the subterfuge with which a betrayed partner had to face.   We get to look at how Morgan’s predictable character made her question her initial choices and sacrifices. How she wished she could have done things differently. Hoover’s differing characters are the heart and soul of this novel.

POV, Writing Style, & Atmosphere

The author made use of an alternating first-person point of view shifting between Morgan and Clara.  Hoover’s writing style is straightforward but her emotions are raw and earnest. The humorous exchanges and dialogues are done just right rarely an attempt at cloying to the point of being nauseating. A combination of light and heavy scenes were alternately done to balance the atmosphere. 

  • Coming of Age
  • Betrayal 
  • Forgiveness
  • Mother and daughter relationship 
  • Love

At its core, “Regretting You” is a masterfully told novel that explores the complex journey of Morgan and Clara as they find themselves at odds with each other after the tragedy that left them forever scarred. It is a narrative that reminds us how flawed and disapproving mothers are but also forgiving and brave.  It brings about the fact that parents cannot always expect their children to turn out the way they wanted them to be just as children cannot expect their parents to be perfect. But what the author drives at with her novel are the sacrifices that Morgan had to endure both as a wife and a mother. Hoover takes us to the realization that there are no perfect marriages and no absolute formula for raising children. Communication is part key and acceptance and forgiveness are necessary in order to move forward.  Overall, this novel is an act of love; one that makes us question our choices and principles despite our good intentions, but love ultimately collects the broken pieces together.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Women’s Domestic Life Fiction / Romance Fiction

Length: 365 pages

Publisher: Montlake (December 10, 2019)

ISBN-10: 1542016428

ISBN-13: 978-1542016421