Book review for Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
(The Dial Press January 6, 2020)
Dear Edward is a story inspired by the real-life tragedy of the ten-year-old Dutch boy, Ruben van Assouw, who was the sole survivor of a plane crash in Lybia in 2010. All other 103 souls aboard the plane perished. This novel’s protagonist is twelve-year-old Edward, a boy who loses his parents and cherished older brother in this tale’s crash. His aunt and uncle, who suffer from infertility and have no children of their own, take him home to try to piece together a new life in a new town.
Don’t let my three star rating scare you off from reading this. It reflects that I enjoyed the read, but when I turned the last page, I wasn’t thinking anything amazingly extraordinary. But I’d been entertained. Even though the story didn’t linger on my mind afterwards like my favorite books do, I didn’t regret the temporary escape. Some of the details didn’t ring authentic, but they only caused brief distractions—not enough to ruin the book for me. Like for instance, the letters Edward received from the thousands of people following his story on social media—an apparently important detail of the story, thus the title “Dear Edward.” I won’t spoil what they contained, but now that I’ve mentioned them, I bet you’re at least a little curious to find out what they were about. Am I right? I just had some doubt about what people asked of him, but who knows? These days we’re finding out there are a lot of different kinds of folks out there in cyberland.
The writing felt like a lot of emotion is left unmined. The potential for intense reaction is great with such a tragedy as this, with a youngster facing such extreme loss and then challenge as he tries to find his way in the midst of the certain grief. But we never get there. And that is a disappointment. Sure, Edward is in shock at first and has very muted responses as he tries cope, but eventually the lack of emotion becomes frustrating. Even if he can’t express himself, I would have liked to get more of his inner voice.
I enjoyed the back and forth format of storytelling, switching from before the crash to life afterwards. A few of the passengers from the flight are developed to a partial degree in the “before” chapters, but they tend to be flat stereotypes. I wasn’t empathetic to any of them really. The characters we meet in the “after” chapters never seem to completely develop. Shay, the neighbor friend who helps Edward the most, is by far the most colorful and delightful character, even though the circumstances of their time together are a bit hard to believe at times. But their scenes do provide the most entertainment and warmth.
Overall, there was so much potential with a story like this, but it wasn’t utilized to the fullest. The result was a story that never quite got in. The people failed to grab my heart. I never had the deep reactions that move and change me in ways I’ll never forget. You know what kind of books I mean. The ones we re-read every year because we just need to have a meaningful catharsis. So, I won’t probably read Dear Edward again, but if you’re an avid reader, it certainly is a book worth making it onto your reading pile. Just don’t go into it with a lot of criticism. Suspend disbelief and let it provoke you to consider what it must have been like for the real Dutch boy who somehow survived a plane falling 35,000 feet out of the sky.
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Life with Quadruplets
As a mother of quadruplets, I've had plenty of crazy experiences raising "supertwins." I blog a lot of memories about my kids. Sometimes just my thoughts on things. I get those sometimes—when my brain works. Which is about one third of the time.