Dear Mr. Knightley
Samantha Moore has had a hard life. She grew up going from foster home to foster home (with some time with her parents who were worse than all the foster homes put together) and one group home. In order to survive her horrid up bringing she would read books. To the point that she would take on the persona of different characters in order to survive different situations. Now Sam has a great chance to go to grad school thanks to a grant from a charitable foundation to help underprivileged children. This will be Sam’s last chance to get an education before she must face the real world all on her own. The only stipulation for the grant is that she must write letters to the foundation’s president about “things that matter” so that he will be able to know that he didn’t waste his money on her. Of course the writing is helpful to Sam in that she can just tell everything like it is without wondering if anyone will actually write back (since Mr. Knightley, the president of the foundation, has promised to not reply to any of her letters).
Sam is a great character. She has had a hard life. Of course Mr. Knightley, along with the readers, have found her a likable character that we all wish we knew. Sam writes about happy moments, sad moments, tense moments and anything in between. Although it has a bit of a predictable ending (especially for those who have read Daddy Longlegs) readers will wish that Katherine Reay had more wonderful books out there to help us discover how we may hide behind characters or books, in order to find ourselves. Well done.
Book discussion questions:
Why did Father John give the stipulation that Sam needed to be in the journalism program? How would/did that help her?
Was it a good idea to have Sam write all those letters to Mr. Knightley? Why or why not?
Alex and Mr. Knightley have to walk a fine line with Sam (considering she didn’t know they were the same person). Should Alex have kept his secret about who he was? Why or why not? If not, what should he have done differently?
Sam had to deal with quite a lot of unpleasant things. How did she deal with them? Was that a healthy way to deal? How do you deal with things that are unpleasant?
Did the foster system fail Sam and Kyle? If so how or why? What should have happened differently?
Thomas Nelson, 2013
Format: realistic letters
Ages: adults, upper teen