When I got the invite to share an excerpt of Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner, I was excited. The synopsis sounded good and I’m a huge fan of books in epistolary format.
Before we get to one of the first letters in the book, let’s check it out!
In Adrienne Kisner’s Dear Rachel Maddow, a high school girl deals with school politics and life after her brother’s death by drafting emails to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow in this funny and heartfelt YA debut.
Brynn Haper’s life has one steadying force–Rachel Maddow.
She watches her daily, and after writing to Rachel for a school project–and actually getting a response–Brynn starts drafting e-mails to Rachel but never sending them. Brynn tells Rachel about breaking up with her first serious girlfriend, about her brother Nick’s death, about her passive mother and even worse stepfather, about how she’s stuck in remedial courses at school and is considering dropping out.
Then Brynn is confronted with a moral dilemma. One student representative will be allowed to have a voice among the administration in the selection of a new school superintendent. Brynn’s archnemesis, Adam, and ex-girlfriend, Sarah, believe only Honors students are worthy of the selection committee seat. Brynn feels all students deserve a voice. When she runs for the position, the knives are out. So she begins to ask herself: What Would Rachel Maddow Do?
Sounds good, right?
And now, the excerpt:
Date: September 11
Subject: RE: School Assignment
Dear Rachel Maddow,
I am writing to you because of a school assignment. It’s a totally ridiculous reason to be writing, but I don’t think you actually read it anyway. This kind of thing is so sixth grade. [Brynn, this is good, honest writing. Can you try to put a positive spin on it?] I am a junior in high school and I’ve been forced asked to write to a “celebrity hero” by the Applied English teacher. (Hey, Mr. Grimm! How’s it hanging, buddy?) [I’m doing well, thanks. But you can take this out.] I wasn’t going to do it, because my ex-girlfriend worships you and, hello, school assignment. But I turned on your show and Mom totally freaked out to see me watching you. Apparently your liberal and leftist views still don’t sit well with her. Mom spat out the words like she was talk- ing about my dad, so I knew she meant it. That made you my celebrity hero. [Again, great personal touch. But maybe too intimate for this correspondence?]
You were talking about some guys running for Congress. But then you said one of them was “freaking amazing.” And I don’t think newspeople are supposed to say things like that. And isn’t that biased? Newspeople aren’t supposed to be biased. I know this because Mr. Grimm, my Applied English teacher, made us watch this video about newswriting. Though no one else knows this about me, Rachel Maddow, I have a photographic memory for stuff people say. Their words just stick in my brain. So I remember what a reporter is supposed to do. [You are right, Brynn! I didn’t know that about you. Shouldn’t you remember your assignments, then?]
Anyway, thanks for pissing off my mom. [There is a list of questions I asked you to include. Maybe you could end with that instead.]
Sincerely, Brynn Harper
That particular letter is actually page 2 of the book. I chose it because I thought it really encapsulated the book and it’s characters.
I have lived my entire “adult” life in a college dormitory working in both Residence Life and college chaplaincy. I like the term “dormitory” better than “residence hall.” I went to school for a long time so that now I get to swoop around in a fancy robe and silly hat (like at Hogwarts). I have an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts (a place like Hogwarts). I play both the viola and tennis with more heart than skill. I love my current home in Boston but will always be a Pennsylvanian at heart. website | twitter
Huge thanks to Macmillan for the invite and excerpt and for sending me the arc.
Now, do you like books written in a unique format, like letters or prose?