Book Den Reviews: “Where’d You Go Bernadette”

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Libby Sullivan

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His Last Stand
April 1, 2017

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Maria Semple


With an ever-changing plot and engaging storyline, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” deserves a spot on everyone’s bookshelf.

“Where’d You Go, Bernadette” follows the somewhat confusing life of 15-year-old Bee Branch, daughter of antisocial, agoraphobic, ex-architect Bernadette Branch. The mother-daughter pair seems inseparable, until one day, a short time before the family’s trip to  Antarctica, Bernadette disappears. Bee suddenly feels no desire to go above and beyond in school, and slowly the lives of Bee and her father begin to unravel. “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” assembled different articles, emails and police reports to find out why Bernadette left her family and what Bee had to do to get her back.

I must admit, I absolutely hated this book when I first picked it up. If I had not been so intrigued with the synopsis, I would have stopped reading the book as soon as I realized the first three-quarters of it consisted of documentation. Instead of following the typical first or third person methods of narration, Maria Semple told her story through documentation. While this type of story-telling typically slows my reading pace and aggravates me, Semple ended up pulling it off. About 50 pages into the book, I was hooked.

Semple put together a lovable story filled with not-so-lovable characters. The range of characters varied so much that it seemed difficult to believe someone could come up with all these characters on their own. Not only did every character have a different personality, they also all faced struggles of their own. Even though the obvious protagonists were Bee and Bernadette, every other character in the story played just as important of a role and developed in some way, shape or form. So if a reader ends up despising one or both of the two main characters, Semple offers plenty of other characters to focus on throughout the novel.

In the swirling pit of teen romance and romantic-contemporary novels, picking up a book that avoided the subject of romance introduced a nice change of pace in my reading list.