I am fairly (book) smart. I’m not ‘totally understood that Astrophysics book by Neil deGrasse Tyson’ smart but I feel okay saying that I am ‘Wuthering Heights Literate’ smart. And being a smart(ish) person who once stood on an English Moor slightly tipsy and screaming “Heathcliffffffffffffffffffff” to the absolute horror of my travel partners, I should have loved Dear Reader, a new modern send up of Emily Bronte’s classic, but I really did not.
Let us just start with the fact that the “Dear Reader” trope was not used in Wuthering Heights, it was used in Jane Eyre, who as everyone knows was written by Charlotte Bronte. So right away I am irritated at the battling Bronte situation, which she acknowledges and explains but felt too Inside Baseball for me. You cannot simply mix up Brontes and expect me not to have OCD about that.
Now that all of that is out of my system… Dear Reader is another YA book (still not dealing with reality on a daily basis) that is also magical realism. If you aren’t familiar, magical realism is – broadly – narrative fiction that is realistic but also contains some magical elements. It is a genre that can go wildly astray that I wouldn’t say I always enjoy but one of my favorite books of all time EVER is One Hundred Years of Solitude, so no hard and fast rules on the genre will come from me. So the fact that this book made little sense to me is not stemming from a fundamental understanding of the spirit of magical realism, as much as it is just the fact that it… did not make sense. So, leeway for using a bendy genre? Check. But so much leeway that you still confused and annoyed me? Nope.
In Dear Reader, we have a story of high school senior Flannery Fields (excellent name), who comes to school one day and finds that her favorite teacher, Miss Sweeney, is missing. Flannery digs through the teacher’s desk (this is not okay) and discovers Miss Sweeney’s copy of Wuthering Heights in her purse, but when she opens it she sees that the text is actually a real-time diary of what is happening with Miss Sweeney. Reading it, Flannery learns that she has gone to New York to chase a ghost (really) and is in trouble. Naturally she jumps on a train to go find her teacher (this is not natural, this is weird) and winds up wandering around the city, tailing Miss Sweeney’s confusing decisions and picking up a boy who is I am sorry to tell you this, named Heath Smith. Heath is British and brilliant and honestly at this point I was out.
Dear Reader is billed as a love letter to reading, and I was annoyed that such a clever concept was not executed well. Nice try, not entirely successful.
Dear Reader – Grade C+