Letters from Inside
by Marsden, John. (Houghton, 1994 ISBN 0 395 6y8985 6) Novel. 146 pages. Grades 7+.
This book was reviewed by Carol Otis Hurst in Teaching K-8 Magazine.
This is a series of letters between two teen age girls. One has answered the others ad in a magazine for a penpal. The plot quickly thickens as we find out that Tracey is in a maximum security prison for young girls and that Mandy has a weird and violent brother. Neither Mandy nor the reader ever finds out what Tracey has done, only that it was bad and that she feels she deserves her sentence. We also learn that when she is released at eighteen, it will be to go across the road to the adult women's facility for two more years. As the letters proceed, the friendship deepens and each girl becomes the other's best friend. For Tracey, Mandy is the only bright spot in her awful existence. However, Mandy's brother continues in his violent behavior, has amassed some weapons and eventually gets so bizarre that even her job-involved parents have to admit that something is very wrong. In the meantime, Tracey's depression has deepened and, as Mandy's letters cease, Tracey loses almost it completely. The last letter is a hopeless one from Tracey and we become aware that something very terrible has happened to Mandy. The author leaves us there. The book is raw. The language is sometimes graphic and there are some allusions to sex but this is a book teenage readers will never forget.