When I initially picked up this book I expected it to be a fun, light read that might give me some insight to Seattle. While Where’d You Go, Bernadette is fun, filled with enough funny moments to feel light, and packed with commentary about aspects of Seattle culture, it’s also so much more.
I fell in love with Semple’s characters—they are so human! Each voice feels distinct, and even actions that seemed directed by outlandish motives have a realistic logic. Bee, our 15-year-old narrator is charming and exceptional in her clarity and kindness, and all too familiar in her selfish adolescence. I initially thought that the format of this book (which largely relies on revealing correspondences between characters to move the plot) was a gimmick, and in the hands of a lesser writer it certainly has been and will continue to be cover for a lack of skill. However, Semple uses this format to explore the ways our perceptions shape our understanding of reality. In doing so, she fleshes her characters out even more.
Put most simply, the premise of this book is that when Bee’s mother disappears, Bee begins an investigation that she hopes will lead her to her mom. However, this book also houses explorations of love, jealousy, conformity, self-care, creativity, and how pressure to succeed changes people. Semple’s descriptions are precise and poetic in an easy way that is enviable. Like all books I love, I learned more about myself and the world by reading the book.
Buy this book. Very few books promise and deliver a compelling beach read that is this well written and insightful.