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When You Read This: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Executive marketing assistant Iris Massey is also the author of the website "Dying to Blog," and yes, poor Iris is. This sad funny story unfolds in blog entries and emails to and from Iris's boss Smith--whose brand management business is in serious and self-inflicted trouble, and her sister Jade, a chef who is better at dishing it out than taking it in. Comic relief is provided by ambitious intern Carl (worthy of his own book!) who has never composed an email that he should have sent. Although the random client communications and accusations, blog comments, solicitations, emojis and heartfelt epistles are all tangled in the sargassum of their inboxes, the novel's characters manage to thread their way through loss and love to the reader's heart.

— From Carla's Picks


A comedy-drama for the digital age: an epistolary debut novel about the ties that bind and break our hearts, for fans of Maria Semple and Rainbow Rowell.
Iris Massey is gone.
But she’s left something behind.

For four years, Iris Massey worked side by side with PR maven Smith Simonyi, helping clients perfect their brands. But Iris has died, taken by terminal illness at only thirty-three. Adrift without his friend and colleague, Smith is surprised to discover that in her last six months, Iris created a blog filled with sharp and often funny musings on the end of a life not quite fulfilled. She also made one final request: for Smith to get her posts published as a book. With the help of his charmingly eager, if overbearingly forthright, new intern Carl, Smith tackles the task of fulfilling Iris’s last wish.

Before he can do so, though, he must get the approval of Iris’ big sister Jade, an haute cuisine chef who’s been knocked sideways by her loss. Each carrying their own baggage, Smith and Jade end up on a collision course with their own unresolved pasts and with each other.

Told in a series of e-mails, blog posts, online therapy submissions, text messages, legal correspondence, home-rental bookings, and other snippets of our virtual lives, When You Read This is a deft, captivating romantic comedy—funny, tragic, surprising, and bittersweet—that candidly reveals how we find new beginnings after loss.

About the Author

Mary Adkins is a writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times and the Atlantic. A native of the American South and a graduate of Duke University and Yale Law School, she lives in New York City with her family. She also teaches storytelling for The Moth.


Praise For…

“A touching, funny, and life-affirming tale.”
Publishers Weekly

“A vibrant epistolary collage with pieces of satire, romance, and family drama overlapping. . . . The book moves with the entertaining swiftness and abrupt tonal shifts of communication in the digital age, with particular thanks to Carl, the intern Smith hires following Iris’ death: a millennial ex machina who juices up the plot with perfect self-importance and -absorption. But thanks to Adkins, even Carl has a (hint of) compelling backstory and a delightful arc. An excellent story that’s condensed into a great example of the epistolary format: something that’s thrilling to expand and decode while reading.”
Kirkus Reviews

“[A] heartfelt page-turner . . . A natural readalike for Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go Bernadette and Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments.”

“As with Maria Semple’s mixed-media masterwork Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Adkins’s debut novel is so much more than its clever style. I read it briskly with a permanent smile on my face, even when the tears were falling. Like a quasar, WHEN YOU READ THIS feels miraculous and leaves a lasting impression long after its final moment.”
Val Emmich, author of The Reminders and Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel

“This inventive and hilarious novel has it all: Mid-life crisis sufferers denying their regrets, a lawless intern with alarming email etiquette, poetic online therapists and a moving message about the resiliency of the human heart. Read this book—I loved it!”
Courtney Maum, author of Touch and I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You

“A remarkable new take on the epistolary novel, WHEN YOU READ THIS manages to thread the finest of needles: a book about a young woman who died of cancer that is neither maudlin nor sentimental, but rather clear-eyed, poignant, and just as often hilarious as it is somber. One of the more memorable books I’ve read this year.”
Doree Shafrir, author of Startup: A Novel and co-host of Forever35 Podcast

“Warm, original, funny and heartbreaking, this novel made me drop everything so I could read it in one lovely afternoon. WHEN YOU READ THIS is inventive and witty, but more importantly it’s honest and wise. I adored it.”
Jennifer Close, author of Girls in White Dresses and The Hopefuls

“Deeply moving but also uplifting, Mary Adkins’ debut novel is easy to read but hard to forget.”
Anne Youngson, author of Meet Me at the Museum

“In her brave debut, Mary Adkins challenges readers to rethink the measure of a life well lived as social media changes the way we interact with others and, by extension, the way we grieve and, eventually, heal. WHEN YOU READ THIS is a poignant commentary on the endless possibility of connection in the online age and the pain and loneliness we experience when those connections fail.”

Meghan MacLean Weir, author of The Book of Essie

“I loved every word of this sweet little gem of a book. It was a quick, humorous—but ultimately touching—read that I couldn’t put down!”

Meg Cabot
Product Details
ISBN: 9780062834676
ISBN-10: 0062834673
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: February 5th, 2019
Pages: 384
Language: English