Book Review: When You Read This by Mary Adkins (My First Real Post!)

Rating: 4.5/5

A fast an enjoyable read told through nonconventional means. Not much else to say. I didn’t give it a 5 simply because I wanted more from the ending but I’m not exactly sure what. 

Book CW: character death, cancer, profanity


The book is a compilation of emails, text messages, and blog posts. 

Iris Massey is a young woman who finds out she is dying of cancer. To cope with her condition, she joins a blogging community of people like her and begins to write. After she dies, her family and friends struggle to come to terms with what is the right thing to do to honor her wishes. 

Before her death, Iris worked for a PR company created and run by Smith Simonyi. As a result of several business failures, the company is losing money fast. Smith’s only financial security comes from secretly “borrowing” money from his biggest client.

After Iris passes, Smith’s assistant Carl discovers a note left behind from Iris in which she tells Smith about her blog and expresses her wish that he publish it. In order to do so, Smith must request permission from Iris’ sister Jade, who is adamant that it is not only a terrible idea but also a scheme to exploit her sister’s death for profit. 

Will they be able to come to an agreement? 

Review (Mild Spoilers)

I read this book over the course of 2 days and it was surprisingly hilarious. I would have probably read it in one sitting if I weren’t as busy with my job.  It was like a novel made specifically to make fun of the way technology has become. I was laughing while reading as early as page 3. 

There are no real chapters, instead there are simply shifts in media. The general format is that there are several email exchanges (after Iris’ death) intermixed with occasion blog posts written by Iris before she died. 

Although I found all the characters unlikeable, they were unlikeable in kind of the best ways (if that makes sense).

  • Smith was maybe the most likeable(?) but he had a lot of problems. From sketch business practices to maybe not the best family ties I was unsure whether to like him or not.
  • Jade was probably my least favorite character. She was extremely go-getting (which I can admire) but in a way where she didn’t care at all about what she was doing to other people. I found myself annoyed with her inflated idea of self-importance and her constant asserting of herself into other people’s lives. Even after Iris died, Jade was convinced that she knew exactly what was best for her sister. 
  • Carl…what can I say about Carl? He was a complete hot mess the entire book and a total plot device. Reading interactions to/from Carl was probably the highlight of the book for me because of how ridiculous he is.

I’m not sure I would have found the story interesting had it not been told the way it was. A plot revolving around a sketchy business owner and a self-absorbed sister not getting along doesn’t sound as fun when I think about it not being told through passive aggressive (and straight up aggressive) email exchanges, so I’m very happy that the book was written the way it was. The only qualm I really had was that at the very end of the book I felt as if the story didn’t really wrap up. I found myself missing the feeling of closure that a book normally would give me. 

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a quick and enjoyable read. 

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