Meet Maxine, a twelve year old girl who spends much of her time with her circle of five friends: Leah, Lexi, Emma, Kelsey and Amanda. Maxine is closer to Leah though and they have a lot of fun chatting with boys online while pretending to be older than they are. It's all harmless. It's only a website.. right?
When Leah vanishes, everything changes. The police start to look for all the clues they can find and when they question Max about Leah's computer, she tells them about the chats and e-mails. How could she not? When she looked at the e-mails on Leah's computer she found that even though the boy's name was different, it was obviously the same boy she had been speaking with.
Now she is left to struggle with the knowledge that it could have been her who was missing, and the guilt of being safe and of not realising something was wrong before now. Maxine starts to avoid friends and family. She spends a lot of time in her room writing in her diary which she renames to Jo, short for journal.
The police ask Maxine to help them. They want her to e-mail the boy again and try and bring him out into the open. What follows is a gripping and emotionally charged chain of events.
Via way of this journal, we follow along this painful story of loss and tragedy. A story that is all too real as these things can, and do happen all the time. It's a great book in that it really brings home the message about the perils of the internet and why parents should be more "hands on" in supervising when their kids use it.
In the back of the book, it also includes Internet Safety Tips for youngsters and a section for Parents which were compiled with help from "Online Safety" at Oprah.com and "Safety Tips" from NetSmartz for which I will include the links below.
This book is a must read for all children who use the internet, and their parents. The recommended age is 9+. This is one of the most important books I have read this year and has been included on my "books which belong on any bookcase" list.
If your tween or teen only reads one book this year, Dear Jo should be the one
Author's website: http://www.christinakilbourne.com/
Oprah's Safety: http://www2.oprah.com/presents/2005/predator/safety/safety_online.jhtml