Sometimes you come across a book that appeals to you on so many different levels that it’s hard to say goodbye when you finish it. “Dear Mr. Knightly” by Katherine Reay is one such book I’ve found.dear

From the book blurb I could tell it was about a book-loving girl who has her college paid for in exchange for letters to her anonymous benefactor. As such, I knew it must be a homage to “Daddy-Long-Legs” by Jean Webster which ranks as one of my10 all-time favorite books. But this book is so much more.

Samantha Moore has always lived more in the books she loves than in the real world. But as a survivor of the foster system, she feels that books have been the one thing that never let her down. Sam has a chance to attend Northwestern University’s journalism program, with her expenses completely covered, but in exchange she must write letters to the anonymous donor.

While Sam is hesitant, and at times almost throws the opportunity away, she soon finds herself in a strange new world that is not only uncomfortable but also frightening at times. She tends to close herself off from people using quotes from her beloved books to push them away instead of letting them see beneath her protective façade. But Sam finds that if she wants to have anyone in her life she must be willing to chance being hurt.

While attending college, Sam also meets one of her favorite novelists, the reclusive Alex Powell. She finds their paths crossing more than once and is quickly attracted not only to the writer but also the man behind the books. The question remains, though, if Sam is willing to open her heart if it means a chance of it being broken.

I fell in love with the character Sam from almost the first page. She has a passion for some of my favorite books, including anything by Jane Austen and “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas. Watching Sam and Alex trade book quotes back and forth was one of my most enjoyed parts. At times, I felt like it was a new version of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy’s courtship.

The author did a great job of bringing the foster system alive. The reader not only gets to see the challenges faced by youngsters in the foster system but also those who have been aged out of the system with few resources to enter adulthood successfully.

Each character in the book was richly developed and a great addition to a well-crafted plot. The highs and lows of the novel had me savoring each new page, and I even found myself arguing with Sam and her decisions, a sign that I was sunk deep into the book.

While the happy ending of the book may strike some as unrealistic, I found it a satisfying conclusion. Sometimes you just want a read that makes you cry because of how much it touches you and makes you happy at the end. I even found myself reading this book a few chapters at a time, to savor how much I was enjoying it and to delay the inevitable bittersweetness of reaching the end.

I was shocked to discover that this is Katherine Reay’s first novel. It was such a pleasure to read that I am eager to see what this author writes next. This book was a treat that I’m sure I will be pulling out to enjoy time and time again in the future, joining my ever-growing list of favorite reads.