Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-250-14602-1 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-250-14601-4 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 7–10
At first, Brynn’s emails to Rachel Maddow were part of an assignment for her junior Language Arts class that asked Brynn to write to her celebrity hero. Soon, though, Brynn finds herself pouring her troubles into the emails, and she’s got plenty of troubles: she’s still struggling with the death of her brother, her stepfather is unrelenting in his emotional abuse, her ex-girlfriend acts like Brynn no longer exists, and she’s failing school and has given up the idea of any successful future. It’s therefore a surprise to everyone, including herself, when she decides to run for a seat on her school’s superintendent selection committee, going up against her nemesis, honor student and A-lister Adam. This has all the hallmarks of a classic teen drama: the snooty rich-kid villain, the deceitful ex-girlfriend, the crappy stepfather, and the smartass outsider supported by a band of misfits (Brynn’s classmates). That script is torn up, though, when the big dogs win—Brynn’s stepdad physically attacks her and then kicks her out, the rich jerk wins the committee seat using Brynn’s addict brother’s past against her, and the tone takes a turn from caustically funny to genuinely emotionally wrenching. Maddow never does personally respond, but the email format gives a direct accessibility to the storytelling and brings Brynn’s biting wit to full force, even as she begins to spiral downward. Our girl’s a fighter, though, and she may be kicked but she’s not beaten; fans of dark humor and tough heroines will want to tune into this story of a luckless girl finally defining her own future—with or without the help of political pundits.