Letters to Julia by Barbara Ware Holmes

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Letters to Julia by Barbara Ware Holmes

Holmes, Barbara Ware. Letters to Julia. Trophy, 1999. ISBN  978-0064472159 312 pp. $

***

In this epistolary novel, 16-year-old Liz, an aspiring writer, begins a correspondence with Julia, a real New York book editor. Julia encourages Liz’s work and sees some of herself in her ambitious young friend, and Liz imagines Julia living out the glamorous, hassle-free life she hopes to have one day. Then an argument threatens their mentor/friendship, and Liz is forced to examine her life, and Julia’s actions, with “fresh eyes.”

The novel is nicely put together. Journal entries and chapters of Liz’s great American novel are interspersed with letters to Julia. It’s fun to compare the three difference versions of specific events in Liz’s life as they play out in the various formats: diary, letter, fiction. The mentorship is wonderful and special–every teen should be so lucky as to have a caring and knowledgeable non-familial adult friend–but the idea isn’t completely believable. Liz’s enthusiasm, while refreshing, was sometimes overzealous. She acted less mature than 16 or 17. However, I am certain that teen writers will relate to her passion and empathize with the difficulties of family and the craft of writing. Literary and artistic allusions may alienate some readers, but may inspire them to seek source materials. Cover art is intriguing and appropriate.

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