DEAR EMMA by Katie Heaney


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A college junior with an advice column discovers that following her own counsel is easier said than done.

Harriet lives a fairly standard college life: hanging out with her two closest friends, going to classes, drinking, and enduring hangovers—all while secretly dispensing wisdom to peers in her advice column, "Dear Emma." Each week, students write in with dating and friendship problems, and Harriet replies with clearheaded and thoughtful solutions. After all, Harriet’s been an observer for so long that she’s developed a knack for identifying the hidden fault lines in others’ lives. But when she meets the enigmatic Keith in her Spanish Civil War class, everything changes; she’s finally at the center of her own drama, and the weeks that follow are a flurry of excitement, study dates, and road trips. As their texts fizzle out, though, Harriet’s plunged into despair. As she continues to harp on Keith, everything seems to be going wrong around her: she’s fighting with her roommate; going to the civil war class is torture; she spots a pretty girl writing on Keith’s Facebook wall. Things get interesting when that girl, a senior named Remy, begins working the same library shift as Harriet, whom she begrudgingly begins to befriend; and when Remy writes Emma asking whether she should break things off with Keith, Harriet is forced to re-evaluate the way she views guys, friendship, and the integrity of her column. Heaney’s (Never Have I Ever, 2014) debut novel is a relatable depiction of modern college romance, and Harriet, despite her annoying obsession with Keith, has an endearingly humorous voice (“I have been waiting my whole life to quiz a hot guy in the library and now that it’s here I’m like, not ready”). However, the novel’s scope is so limited that it may not hold readers’ attention. College can indeed be a bubble, but Harriet’s sole focus on guys and day-to-day dramas precludes more complicated or long-term plotlines—which could have transformed Harriet from a merely humorous character into a well-rounded, satisfying one.

Somewhat superficial, funny, and short.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-455-53460-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2015


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