cover image Letters from the Inside

Letters from the Inside

John Marsden. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $16 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-395-68985-1

Readers will find themselves quickly absorbed in this chilling epistolary novel. A correspondence between two contemporary Australian girls begins harmlessly enough, when Mandy (``I know what I won't do, and that's tell you my star sign, favourite group, favourite food, all about my sister and brother and the usual junk'') answers a magazine ad for a pen pal, which has been placed by Tracey (``You write so well, much better than me''). As the letters become more intimate, dark truths surface and force both girls to confront personal demons. It soon becomes evident that Mandy's home life is frequently disrupted by violence, and that Tracey is not the pampered, carefree girl she pretends to be. Told entirely through letters, this psychological drama evokes the desperation of two trapped individuals who find a means of escape through their writing. Marsden ( So Much to Tell You ) clearly defines the voices, personalities and immediate conflicts of his characters; even so, the girls' fates remain hauntingly ambiguous. The heart-wrenching conclusion will exert its power long after this book is read. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)