Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Marie Semple

Title: Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Author: Marie Semple
Year Published: 2012

Genre: YA fiction (mystery)
Pages: 330
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2014 Google Reading map): USA (WA) and Antarctica


FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): When fifteen-year-old Bee claims a family trip to Antarctica as a reward for perfect grades, her fiercely intelligent but agoraphobic mother, Bernadette, throws herself into preparations for the trip. Worn down by years of trying to live the Seattle life she never wanted, Bernadette is on the brink of a meltdown. As disaster follows disaster, she disappears, leaving her family to pick up the pieces. Which is exactly what Bee does, weaving together emails, invoices, and school memos to reveal the secret past that Bernadette has been hiding for decades.

Review: I first heard about this book from Athira at Reading on a Rainy Day. She really enjoyed so I added it to my list, bought it a while later, stared at it for weeks and finally got around to reading it. I am so glad that I did!

This novel is quirky, funny, and entertaining without being fluff. There were passages I enjoyed so much that I read them aloud to people or had them read them to themselves! The book actually first appeared as an article (brief story?) in The New Yorker magazine. That story is in the back of the book and was fun to read as well.

The format of the book is various methods of communication. We read the story of the characters and learn about them through their letters, emails, phone calls and other documents. I thought at first that would be weird, but it turns out the reader gets to hear the story from various points of view, and that works really well.

The characters are crazy. Really. But I liked them, even the ones that weren't "likable." Bee has a mostly good relationship with her parents even though it has its moments of strain and anxiety for all involved. Since we learn about the characters in their own voices I feel like I really got to know them. Bernadette (mom) is nuts and frantic, Bee (daughter) is intelligent and wise beyond her years, Elgie (dad) is a workaholic and disconnected. The other peripheral characters are funny and kept me smiling as I read this book. I realize it felt light, fun, and funny even when it was dealing with serious issues. That doesn't mean it made light of things, just that the quirky style made it very entertaining.

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