Skip to main content

When You Read This


When You Read This

Mary Adkins’ stellar debut novel, WHEN YOU READ THIS, is witty, entertaining and at times heartwrenching. The story unfolds in emails, blog posts and comments, Amazon reviews, texts and more.

As the book opens, Iris Massey has recently passed away. Her boss and close friend, Smith Simonyi, is struggling to keep his advertising business afloat because he cannot come to terms with her death. Refusing to hire a permanent employee to replace Iris, he opts instead to bring on an intern from Stanford University, Carl Van Snyder III. While cleaning out Iris’ desk, Carl stumbles upon a printed copy of a blog entitled “My Life’s First Draft: A Blog Turned into a Book” that Iris maintained after she was diagnosed with cancer until she passed away. Iris left a note for Smith asking him to publish the blog if he would like.

Wanting to ensure that he has familial approval to do so, Smith contacts Iris’ sister, Jade. Bogged down by grief as well, Jade is vehemently opposed to its publication. Seeking a link to Iris, Jade and Smith begin corresponding and attempting to start the process of dealing with their grief.

"WHEN YOU READ THIS is an outstanding addition to contemporary literature that effectively addresses the issues people face today in a poignant and cleverly insightful manner."

Adkins’ choice to use various methods of online correspondence and posts is ingenious. While humor is present constantly in her writing, she also reflects on what it means to be human in this virtual age. Iris’ blog posts are creative and lend a more serious tone to the novel. As her cancer progresses, she addresses the issue of dying, her interactions with her too-honest doctors, her regrets that she did not accomplish more in her short life, and her understanding that her absence will wreck both Smith and Jade. Iris’ blog illustrations are insightful and thought-provoking, a great addition to the book.

WHEN YOU READ THIS is filled with sly and frequently hilarious commentary on today’s society. The website hosting Iris’ blog is called Dying to Blog after a failed attempt to name it d-log, which “didn’t go over well with focus groups.” The comments on the blog are always funny, whether it's from a follower or the blog administrators. A client, a dentist who transformed Paula Abdul’s teeth and catapulted to fame as a result, is unhappy with Smith’s current subway advertising campaign for her because commuters are covering her ads, specifically her teeth, with graffiti. Another client is a white rapper named Yo-Play (real name Phil Gregel), who won Saran Wrap’s Freestyle Showdown, which launched his career with the single “Don’t Whiz on Me.” Yo-Play’s email correspondence is laugh-out-loud hilarious and is a highlight of the book.

Carl, Smith’s newly hired intern, steals the show. His complete and utter lack of competence and self-awareness lead to comical and frequently unintended consequences that are constantly wreaking havoc on Smith’s personal and professional lives. Carl answers emails he is not supposed to, frequently leaves the office for three-hour lunches and hot yoga, and refuses to work on any project with which he philosophically disagrees (which is almost every project).

WHEN YOU READ THIS is an outstanding addition to contemporary literature that effectively addresses the issues people face today in a poignant and cleverly insightful manner. It is a true standout and should not be missed.

Reviewed by Cindy Burnett on February 15, 2019

When You Read This
by Mary Adkins

  • Publication Date: February 18, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0062834681
  • ISBN-13: 9780062834683