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Book Review - Letters from the Inside

Essay by   •  June 8, 2011  •  Book/Movie Report  •  487 Words (2 Pages)  •  2,573 Views

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Letters from the Inside, written by the Australian author John Marsden, is a thought provoking novel. Although written quite a few years ago in 1991, the book is still very relevant today, dealing with issues such as family violence and teenage life. Written in the context of letters between two teenage girls, this fiction text gradually unfolds leaving the reader wanting more.

Mandy and Tracey's lives cross when Mandy replies to an ad Tracey places in a teen magazine for a pen pal. This begins a long distance friendship between the girls and they gradually become close. Initially the girls portray themselves, through their letters, as typical modern teenagers. They write superficially about their families, sport and boys. Mandy then realises something is strange about Tracey's letters; they all don't seem to fit together. When Mandy unsuccessfully tries to get her letters hand delivered to Tracey's 'school', Mandy questions Tracey about her life. As the trust builds between the two girls, Tracey admits she is in a detention centre. However, the trust is not strong enough for Tracey to confess why she is there. Throughout the story, Tracey reveals her past life including details about her violent family life and boyfriend, and describes what life is like in prison.

Mandy also reveals to Tracey that her life has a problem too; her violent brother pushes her around and bullies her. Tracey, whose life has always revolved around violence, does not want to hear about this imperfection in Mandy's family. Despite all the complications the two girls have, the letters continue and the friendship seems unbreakable.

John Marsden, through the letters, has been able to create two, very realistic teenage girls. The language they use in their letters is typical of teenagers and the problems they have, although somewhat melodramatic, are believable and seem realistic in this context. The story deals with family violence and the impact it has on children, which is a real issue in today's society; making this book relevant to today's teenagers. Marsden gradually unfolds each girl's story through the letters, getting the reader hooked on the girl's lives. The ending is somewhat confusing leaving the reader to ponder what has happened.

Letters from the Inside is a powerful novel. Initially, the story builds slowly and it is somewhat difficult to become involved. But as you get to know the characters and they confide more about their troubled lives, both past and present, the book becomes more than ink on paper. A sense of urgency develops as you wonder what will unfold in the next letter. The last letters are frantic and leave you, the reader, puzzled, unsettled and confused. Indeed a thought provoking novel.

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