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Reviewed by Jessica Barbosa for Readers' Favorite
To Valerie, with Love, Jenny by Debbie Parker centers around cheeky Valerie Negron, the third daughter of Annie and Frank Negron. Valerie had been the youngest child of the Negron family for fourteen years, but this is all about to change when her parents surprise her with an unexpected announcement: a fourth Negron child is on the way! Valerie is not impressed with the news of a new sibling, but time passes and eventually, she grows used to being Jenny’s older sister. Jenny is born with Down syndrome and Valerie grows to understand how special her little sister is. However, an unforeseen tragedy requires Valerie to grow up faster and step up to the responsibility. Her relationships with the people around her change, some grow stronger, while other bonds break. In the future, an accident will force Valerie to relive an old fear and divine intervention will show her that, even as an adult, she still has a lot left to learn about love and life.
To Valerie, with Love, Jenny is a story of miracles, forgiveness, redemption, and a realization that even when you’re an adult with a husband and kids, there are still lessons to be learned about love, life, and family. Valerie grows up quickly because of unforeseen circumstances that leave her caring for her younger sister, Jenny. Although she did well in raising her youngest with the support of her remaining family, she still makes mistakes along the way and nearly severs the bond between her and her older sister, Delores. Debbie Parker has done an amazing job of pushing the story along, from when Valerie was in her teens to her life as an adult. Valerie's relationship with her family and friends, when they aren't fighting, is enviable. The easy banter and oftentimes funny quips between the Negron family, their relatives, in-laws, and friends flow naturally throughout the story. I love how tight-knit the characters are and how they unfailingly supported each other throughout the various tragedies and challenges they faced.
Parker has also done a wonderful job with Jenny’s character. I felt she was the true glue that held everything together in the end. I was glad that we were able to hear Jenny’s side of the story too. I got to see her point of view and I enjoyed reading about her lecturing Valerie; she is as brave and as unapologetic as her older sister and I was just so proud of her throughout the entire book. Overall, I found this book to be a touching, unforgettable story with equally unforgettable and wonderful characters. Great job!