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Heart on my Sleeve    by Ellen Wittlinger order for
Heart on my Sleeve
by Ellen Wittlinger
Order:  USA  Can
Pulse, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

Chloe met Julian when they were visiting Cartwright University on a prospective freshman weekend. They formed an immediate connection over music since both sing, had a romantic weekend, and decided to continue to communicate after they returned home. The two begin to write e-mails back and forth, exploring their attraction and becoming friends as well as falling a bit in love. Chloe also communicates with her best friend and sister, Genevieve, who is away at college. They discuss their lives and struggles with everyday issues.

As Chloe and Julian grow closer, Chloe worries about Eli, her longtime boyfriend. She doesn't consider herself 'in love' with Eli, he's just a good friend. But Chloe doesn't want to hurt him regardless. Throughout the remainder of their senior year and the summer that follows, Chloe and Julian write back and forth, anxious for the day when they will see each other again. But when that happens, will each be all the other has dreamed about?

This modern-day epistolary novel is told entirely in e-mails, instant messages, letters, and postcards. It takes a touching look at growing up and learning who you really are. It's amazing how well the reader can get to know Chloe just by reading her letters to others, but it's quickly apparent that she wears a mask for some people, and is more herself with others. After Chloe and Julian finally meet again, their letters to their respective sisters tell more about the encounter than one could get from just reading a narrative account. The reader gets both sides of the story, which gives a complete picture.

I particularly liked the ending, because it's very true to life. It's happy, but in a different way than you might expect. Although the format makes this appear to be a light romance novel, heavier issues come up -- such as lesbianism and parental disappointment. These give the book depth and meaning beyond the surface. On one hand, Heart on my Sleeve is full of honest love and commitment, and on the other hand it's heartbreaking. This is a great choice for a rich, intriguing reading experience.

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