My Rating: 5 stars
Synopsis from Goodreads.com
Dear Mr. Knightley is a contemporary epistolary novel with a delightful dash of Jane Austen.
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.
As Sam’s true identity begins to reveal itself through her letters, her heart begins to soften to those around her—a damaged teenager and fellow inhabitant of Grace House, her classmates at Medill, and, most powerfully, successful novelist Alex Powell. But just as Sam finally begins to trust, she learns that Alex has secrets of his own—secrets that, for better or for worse, make it impossible for Sam to hide behind either her characters or her letters.
I'm going to gush a little here- I *loved* this book. So, so good. I have to admit I judged the book by its cover and thought it would be chick-lit fluffy, but it was deep and compelling and emotional. All in good ways, though. Several times I found a tear creeping out the corner of my eye, but it wasn't because I was sad, it's because I was so touched.
I didn't instantly connect with the main character Sam. As more of her personality and background was revealed, I became more invested in the story. The voice of the novel is very personal since it reads almost like a journal, but the author did a great job of being able to portray both the thoughts of Sam and the scenes and interactions with others. While the book is based on the classic Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster, the grittiness of the foster care system and hardships Sam endured made things more real and less fairy-tale.
I enjoyed the relationship between Sam and Alex. Their friendship then romance developed and deepened slowly which worked well for the pacing. The relationships she developed with other characters were just as satisfying to read about. The part I liked best was that she was introduced as such a flawed person, but as she became aware of her shortcomings and unhealthy coping mechanisms, she focused on the difficult task of changing and improving. It was refreshing and interesting to watch her character progression, as well as others in the book.
(ARC provided via Netgalley for unbiased review)