Dear Jo: The Story of Losing Leah ... and Searching for Hope.


192 pages
ISBN 978-1-897073-51-3
DDC jC813'.6





Reviewed by Dave Jenkinson

Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and the author of the “Portraits” section of Emergency Librarian.


This cautionary tale about the potential dangers of preteen/teens’ unsupervised Internet use begins on November 10 and concludes on April 15. Dear Jo consists of the entries in Jo, the diary/journal kept by a 12-year-old self-defined ugly duckling, Maxine “Max” Marie Lemay, who recounts her experiences with online chatting that could have resulted in her death, and did lead to the murder of her best friend, Leah.


When Max’s parents accidentally discover her secret online communications with 2funE just at the point he had suggests they meet in person, they prohibit Max from having any further communications with him. Leah’s parents, however, are completely unaware of their daughter’s online romance involving Muscleboy. Only after Leah disappears and Max reads some of Muscleboy’s emails sent to Leah does she recognize the similarities in the language used by Muscleboy and 2funE. The police, convinced that Muscleboy and 2funE are the same individual, engage Max, with her parents’ permission, in a sting that nabs Leah’s murderer, an adult masquerading online as a 16-year-old boy.


Without being didactic, Kilbourne uses Max’s journal entries and copies of 2funE’s emails to demonstrate how a gullible, trusting adolescent can be seduced by an Internet predator who knows how to play on the self-concept needs of a vulnerable child. Two of the book’s concluding three pages of “Internet Safety Tips” are directed to the book’s readers, with the last page being “For Your Parents.” Recommended.


Kilbourne, Christina., “Dear Jo: The Story of Losing Leah ... and Searching for Hope.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 13, 2024,