Dear Mr. Knightley

by Katherine Reay

From Goodreads
Samantha Moore survived years of darkness in the foster care system by hiding behind her favorite characters in literature, even adopting their very words. Her fictional friends give her an identity, albeit a borrowed one. But most importantly, they protect her from revealing her true self and encountering more pain.

After college, Samantha receives an extraordinary opportunity. The anonymous “Mr. Knightley” offers her a full scholarship to earn her graduate degree at the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. The sole condition is that Sam write to Mr. Knightley regularly to keep him apprised of her progress.

My rating

My review
It is a rare thing to find a well-written debut novel, but it happens on occasion (hint: this is one of those occasions). Despite this fact, I'm actually not sure whether I want to tear this book to shreds or exclaim how much I love it. This is one of those novels that slowly and subtly hijacks your emotions -- not tense, I-need-to-know-what-happens-next emotions, but very strong empathy. You can taste that pint of Chunky Monkey ice cream the main character just sobbed down.

And Sam is not a spunky heroine who always knows what to say. She is an introvert, and she is flawed and awkward and real. I like real characters (if you follow this blog at all, you probably know that).

I have a few nit-picky complaints about this novel, the first being related to the afore-mentioned emotional hijacking. The climax occurs towards the end, and cumulates in a near "happily-ever-after." There's obviously still a rough road ahead for the characters, but it came to a head and an assurance of good things a little too abruptly. The second is that the letters (yes, it's entirely written in letters, but that doesn't take away from the novel at all, I assure you) are sometimes a bit too detailed to be letters.

Dear Mr. Knightley

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