Review of When You Read This

When You Read This: A Novel by [Adkins, Mary]

When You Read This

Mary Adkins


February 5, 2019


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.


I expected to love When You Read This by Mary Adkins because the description of being a “captivating romantic comedy” and comparison to novels by Rainbow Rowell made it seem like something I would appreciate.

For me, the comedy came mostly from Smith’s interactions with his new intern, Carl, and then Carl’s sometimes youthful ignorance of the way the world works, not to mention his intrepid desire to go where he shouldn’t.

The romance was practically non-existent, with the bit that existed for me involving Iris and the men in her life.

Frankly, my favorite character, besides Carl, was Iris. Perhaps because her blog entries allowed her to express herself, who she was as a young person and is as an adult, not to mention her fears and thoughts in the face of death. I loved that she was vulnerable, that she wanted to be seen by the people in her life, most especially her sister. I wish her life could have been fleshed out a bit more because she was the only one I came away caring about.

On the other hand, I was not fond of Jade. I think I was supposed to be. To me, she came across as ego-driven, controlling, and judgmental. The one redeeming scene came far, far late in the novel, an action she did as Iris approached death, that I unfortunately don’t want to spoil for anyone who might put this on the TBR list. That scene–I wish it had come sooner and I wish there had been more like it. Maybe I would have liked Jade then.

As for Smith, I felt sorry for him. Everything seems to have collapsed for him. He seems like a perennial sad sack, the bulls-eye in the target.

This is by no means the first epistolary novel I’ve read (and I doubt it will be the last). The times when it worked were in the longer passages in which Adkins lets her writing chops go. The shorter notes lacked the required zing or humorous snap.

All in all, there are some heart-warming moments, some funny moments, and some bittersweet moments combined with some excellent writing. However, if you pick this up expecting a real romantic-comedy, don’t. Read it without that expectation and I think you’ll come away much happier.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

When You Read This goes on sale February 5. You can pre-order here.



3 butterflies and a ladybug out of 5 butterflies

2 thoughts on “Review of When You Read This

    1. I average around 2 books a week. Sometimes the reviews get clumped together depending on the publication date, which can make it look like I spend all day reading (which would be nice). 🙂

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