Sold as a ‘Gilmore Girls with magic realism’ YA novel, I was immediately intrigued and drawn to Mary O’Connell’s Dear Reader. A modern re-imagining of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Dear Reader centers on seventeen year-old Flannery Fields, a book-smart, Belle-like girl who gets taunted daily by her Regina George-ish classmates at her all-girls private school. Flannery’s only raison d’être and guardian angel is her youthful AP English teacher, Miss Sweeney, who mysteriously vanishes one morning. The only clues her beloved teacher leaves behind is her purse and her copy of Wuthering Heights, which wondrously transforms into Miss Sweeney’s diary from the very same day she disappeared. Following the diary entries, Flannery jets off to New York and soon meets the too-good-to-be-true Heath Smith, a debonair, worldly teenager who acts as a guide for the smitten schoolgirl as she tries to locate her troubled teacher.
The main problem I had with Dear Reader, (and I had many), was that Flannery wasn’t a well crafted character with any believable actions. Why would such an intelligent girl run off to a different city in search of her teacher? And why wouldn’t she just skip ahead in the book to find out her teacher’s final location instead of carefully reading and analyzing each section? Frankly I would have preferred more of the book to have focused on Miss Sweeney, a far more plausible and better written character.
Passionate fans of Wuthering Heights and literary discourse will enjoy the book but I, dear reader, was not a fan.
Dear Reader was provided by Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. It may be purchased from your friendly independent bookseller or other fine bookstores.