Dearest Josephine

Thomas Nelson. Feb. 2021. 384p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780785236184.
Gr 8 Up–Eighteen-year-old Josie De Clare leaves London, as well as her insufferable mother and ex-boyfriend Rashad, to spend time alone at the estate her father purchased before his death. Through email, she reconnects with Faith, her Italian American best friend. Alone in the run-down estate, Josie describes to Faith the steps she’s taking to fix it up. Stumbling upon a packet of letters from 1820 addressed to a Josephine De Clare from pale-skinned, hazel-eyed Elias, whose portrait peers down from above the desk, Josie and Faith, along with handsome local boy Oliver, dig deeper. Josie discovers that Elias, who met Josephine at a dance only once, is infatuated and determined to locate her. He describes Josephine, who with her personality, blonde hair, and slate blue eyes resembles Josie in so many ways that she is certain that they have a connection. Readers follow the story through Elias’s letters to Josephine, interspersed with texts from Josie to Faith and Oliver, as well as an unfinished manuscript Elias wrote about his love for the mysterious Josephine. With Josie becoming more convinced that she and Elias are meant to be together, Faith and Oliver are there to remind her that love comes in many forms.
VERDICT The overlong passages and jumps from today’s texts to Elias’s letters and novel do little to move the story forward, but there will be readers for whom this flowery story of star-crossed love, friendship, and angst works well.

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