Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose edited by Gillian McCain & Legs McNeil

Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose
edited by Gillian McCain & Legs McNeil

Hardcover, 336 pages
Published April 1, 2014 by Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Biography, Diaries, Social Issues
Awards: None

MLA: McCain, Gillian, and Legs McNeil, eds. Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose. Naperville, Ill.: Sourcebooks, 2014. Print. ISBN-13: 978-1402287589. Hardcover. $15.99.

Find in your local library!

Mary Rose, a 15-year-old rebel with a heart of gold, struggles with bullying, making friends, and fitting in when her weak-willed mother moves her to a new town. Eventually Mary Rose turns to sex, drugs, and alcohol to ease her suffering, and we experience her struggles right alongside her in this heartbreaking series of diary entries and letters that reveal her most personal thoughts.

Published after her death in 1999 at seventeen years old, Mary Rose’s diary chronicles her life in brutal, sometimes harrowing detail as she struggles to find companionship, battle addiction, and survive a cystic fibrosis diagnosis. Though Mary Rose often writes with a stunning lyricism far beyond her years, it’s hard to forget that she’s a frustrated, lonely teenager as she records her angst-y bitterness at the world with rare bursts of uninhibited joy when things occasionally go her way. Mary Rose had a tough life, and sometimes it’s difficult to read about the poor choices she made, the anguish she suffered, and the way she was treated by people in her life who supposedly cared about her. A gritty, honest portrayal of teenage life, Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose is an important and honest account of the struggles of chronic illness, addiction, and abuse that many teenagers like Mary Rose must face every day.

I have been struggling for a week to figure out exactly what to say about Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose. How do you review someone’s most personal thoughts and feelings, recorded without any intention of other people reading them? This book was difficult to read, but it was definitely worth the effort. Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil, who edited Mary Rose’s 600+ diary pages to the condensed version that became the final book, did not change a single word of the text, letting Mary Rose tell her own story the way she originally recorded it. Because of the very light editing, there’s not much of a narrative flow to Dear Nobody, which might bother some readers who are used to the solid structure and flow of the typical YA novel. But what you get in return is an open door into the world of a girl you want to befriend, want to help, and want to save. The whole time I was reading this book, I wanted to reach inside and give Mary Rose a big hug and tell her she’s not alone, even though it may seem like it. It is important to note that this book is quite graphic and sometimes shocking in its portrayal of addiction, sexual assault, and abuse, so more sensitive or younger readers might want to steer clear. If you can handle these tough subjects, though, I definitely think Dear Nobody is worth the struggle.


Mary Rose’s life was too brief and she gave up a lot in the face of her terminal diagnosis, but the moments of hope and her vibrant personality make Dear Nobody an important addition to the canon of YA non-fiction. I recommend this one as a good pick for mature teen readers (14 and up) looking for a gritty true story.

Gillian and Legs's interview with School Library Journal is definitely worth a read. The "final thoughts" at the end really add another layer of depth to Mary Rose's story.

The book trailer from the publisher offers a great example of one of Mary Rose's diary entries.

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