Dear Edward took me on a healing journey I didn't know I needed | Literary Arts | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Dear Edward took me on a healing journey I didn't know I needed

click to enlarge Dear Edward took me on a healing journey I didn't know I needed
CP Photo: Jordan Snowden
Dear Edward
At the opening of Ann Napolitano's third novel, Dear Edward, the title character Eddie Adler, a 12-year-old from New York City, is traveling on a flight from Newark to Los Angeles with his parents and older brother.

Eddie's mother, a former Law & Order writer, has a new gig working as a writer for a movie, and the flight marks the beginning of their new lives in California. The Adlers are among 183 other passengers who are making the cross-country journey, for various reasons of their own. There's an injured war vet. A young woman who just found out she is pregnant and is meeting up with the father upon landing. An old, sick billionaire and his nurse.

A little more than halfway through the flight, in northern Colorado, the plane crashes. No one survives except for Eddie. Dear Edward follows his life in the aftermath of the tragedy while switching back and forth to the final moments in the air. You see him, as a child, falling from the sky, juxtaposed with a jaded, growing teenager. In the former, he is Eddie; in the latter, he goes by Edward. The decision to call him Edward is made by his Aunt Lacey in the hospital when he wakes up. It's a monumental choice that marks the new person he has become.

At 12, Edward was just finding out who he was, just becoming himself. And suddenly, he was forced in a drastic new direction, one where he's cast in the public eye and everyone around him is drawn to him. His face is splattered all over the news, all over the internet, and people feel like they know Edward because they think they know his story. His identity is now the boy who survived the crash.

Edward moves in with his mother's sister, Lacey, and her husband John. Next door lives a single mother and her daughter, Shay, who is the same age as Edward. Edward clings to Shay immediately, sleeping on the floor in her room instead of his own, and they begin an enduring friendship.

Early on, Shay compares Edward to Harry Potter. While his immediate family has died, he survived — and she believes Edward has a special power of evoking vulnerability. When Edward is around, people immediately open up to him. They tell him secrets, their deepest darkest thoughts because he survived something horrific, because he’s an outcast, because he was the last ties that they know of to their loved ones.

For the first half of the book, these confessions happen during in-person interactions. Then Edward discovers something his Uncle John had been finding: duffle bags full of letters addressed to Edward. His power spans beyond face to face conversations.

Dear Edward is a beautiful story about finding yourself in untraditional ways while nodding at the effects of social media, the nonlinear healing process of loss, and the butterfly effect one event can have on a nation. While reading, I had moments of reflection. There were moments when I cried, and I left Edward's story feeling better than I did going into. It was a healing journey I didn't know I needed.

Dear Edward is out Jan. 6 via Dial Press. 

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