Diaries and chat rooms

Dear Jo: The Story of Losing Leah…And Searching for Hope

By Angela Carr

A review of Dear Jo: The Story Of Losing Leah...and Searching For Hope by Christina Kilbourne

Published on July 1, 2007

Dear Jo: The Story Of Losing Leah…and Searching For Hope
Christina Kilbourne

Lobster Press
$10.95
paper
192pp
978-1897073513

The years of early adolescence are a time when kids may need a little nudge to make reading and literature seem cool. This new novel, which pivots on the protagonist’s love of those things, does the trick. Diary writing helps a 12-year-old girl tell her traumatic story and heal. What’s more, this young person is reading and writing in an utterly contemporary world of corporate logos, pop culture references and internet shorthand.

It is hard to make friends when you move to a new town, but devastating when one of your best friends is kidnapped. Dear Jo (short for Journal) is a book of journal entries written by 12-year-old Maxine detailing her emotional turmoil after the loss of her best friend, Leah.

Maxine and Leah have discovered internet chat rooms, and begin to spend a lot of times in them under assumed names. At first simply fun, their exploits take a turn when both girls are swept off their feet by internet boyfriends. Then Leah disappears, and Maxine is overwhelmed with grief and worry. After six excruciating months of waiting, Leah’s body is found in the woods. Maxine is even more distraught; to her mother’s despair, the funeral does not seem to provide Maxine with closure. That’s something she can achieve only by assisting in the police investigation (worrying her mother even more).

Police detective Lucas becomes Maxine’s good friend and comforter. She gets to join in the investigation by going online to lure the internet predator back. In the end, Maxine’s participation is crucial to the investigation and empowers her. Kilbourne tenderly explores a difficult subject in a novel that culminates in healing. mRb

Angela Carr is a Montreal writer.

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