Review: Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

by Heather Caliendo
book review dear edward - book club chat
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Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano is a beautifully written story about a boy working to overcome the unimaginable. 

I’ve taken so many flights that go from Phoenix to the East Coast that are uneventful but just long and boring. There’s always a brief moment of ‘what happens if something goes wrong’ that runs through my head but for the most part, I feel safe flying. 

So when I first read the synopsis of Dear Edward and that it involved a plane crash, I hesitated. Sometimes stories really get to me and I didn’t know if I could handle reading that. But then, I thought about it—a majority of the public travels and SO many people love this book. There has to be more to this story than just documenting pure terror. And there really is. I’m so glad I finally picked this book up. It’s raw, emotional but so full of heart and hope. 

This is a heavy story but it’s crafted so well. I truly feel that if the story was handled by a less skilled writer, it would have been too much. But the author Ann Napolitano expertly weaves a story about grief while at the same time, serving as a coming-of-age tale. This is a great one for book clubs

The synopsis: 

One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Among them are a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured veteran returning from Afghanistan, a business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. Halfway across the country, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor.

Edward’s story captures the attention of the nation, but he struggles to find a place in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a part of himself has been left in the sky, forever tied to the plane and all of his fellow passengers. But then he makes an unexpected discovery—one that will lead him to the answers of some of life’s most profound questions: When you’ve lost everything, how do you find the strength to put one foot in front of the other? How do you learn to feel safe again? How do you find meaning in your life?

Alternating sections 

The story switches from the real time of the plane ride and its eventual crash to Edward’s existence after surviving the crash. In the present time storyline, we follow Edward the entire time. But in the plane section, it features all kinds of passengers including Edward’s family, a Wall Street guy, a veteran and more. We learn all about their lives leading up to this fateful plane ride. It’s difficult to read how much they planned for the future.

This truly is a quiet story about unassuming people. The only criticism I have of the plane section is there is a focus on this wealthy elderly man; I just wasn’t engaged with his storyline at all. But the rest of the passengers, I found fascinating and very realistic. I kept thinking to myself that I’ve sat by versions of the people she describes on countless flights. It was very eerie at times to read it. 

Edward’s story

But in the end, this is a story about Edward and what it means to survive. He’s such a great kid— you will root for him every step of the way. After the accident, he moves in with his aunt and uncle. But no one feels comfortable as they’re all still grieving in their one way. He finds solace in the form of his next door neighbor Shay, a quirky girl with a heart of gold. I loved their dynamic and relationship. It’s one of the strongest parts of the novel. 

How do you pick up the pieces after experiencing a horrific tragedy? A tragedy that also makes Edward famous where people both want something from him and treat him differently. Edward tries to find healing but it won’t come easy. Especially when the expectations for all the deceased passengers suddenly lies on his shoulders. 

BTW, you’ll find out why the book is called Dear Edward. There’s definitely more to the story there. 

I know the subject is quite sad but I really encourage you all to give this book a try. Yes, it’s difficult but Edward’s journey is fascinating and even a bit inspiring. 

Click here to buy the book on Amazon. Check out my book club questions here.

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