the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘epistolary

the title of this post is a lie.

Letter writing is not a lost art. It happens all the time.

I hated writing letters as a child. I hated writing Thank You notes for birthday gifts, I hated writing out holiday cards.  I didn’t like addressing envelopes, I didn’t like pretty stationary.

Luckily, I grew out of that.  Way out.  These days I voluntarily write letters,  purchase fun cards and stationary,  go to Postcard expos, and I even enjoy addressing envelopes!  Did any of you hear on the radio the other day that the Post Office had good profits last year?  well, me and my letter writing friends go through a lot of postage.

It probably shouldn’t surprise me that I’ve come to really enjoy epilostery, epistoler, stories told through letter writing.  Characters writing letters back and forth? that sounds so cheesy! so old fashioned!!  but somehow,  I find this method of telling a story so much more effective than a bunch of characters wandering around doing things together. It’s strange, how the limits of letter writing flip themselves inside out to something infinite when used to tell a story.   Think about it – when you write a letter you only have so much space on the page.  It limits your space, so it limits what you can say (unless you want to send a 10 page letter, which is totally OK), so you have to prioritize what you want to say, and details may get left out. Letters also contain far less internal monologue, more inside jokes, the opportunity to add a doodle, misspelled words that may be crossed out, and handwriting that changes sizes or may be difficult to read.  Handwriting is a personal and non-verbal communication method all by itself.

 

So, anyway, I like those kinds of stories, and was lucky enough to run into three fantastic ones recently. Unfortunately, some of these aren’t available for public consumption yet, but they will be soon!

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pen palPen Pal, by Francesca Forrest

published Feb 2014

where I got it: Received review copy from the author

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From the cover art, my husband thought this novel might be a romance. Personally, I had no idea what to expect. But I was hooked about 5 pages in. It was as if at the same moment, Em threw a fishing line into the ocean, and Kaya lowered a line into the lava lake, and they both caught me and reeled me in. Good thing this book has quality binding, otherwise my copy wouldn’t be in such good shape by now because I pretty much carried it around everywhere.

 

I very recently read Long Hidden, which features marginalized characters and stories. Everything in Long Hidden was historical fiction, stories and situations that should never be relegated to the margins, but still, are history. I didn’t plan to read the books concurrently, but while reading Pen Pal I watched marginalization in action, happening right in front of my eyes.  And it was shockingly sobering.  Due to adult content, Long Hidden probably isn’t appropriate for the under fifteen crowd. But Pen Pal is perfect for the YA crowd, and for any reader looking for stories from the margins.  And if you’re just looking for a damn good book with two empowering women, Pen Pal is that too.

 

On a lark, young Em puts a message in a bottle, and throws it into the ocean.

“If you find it, please write back to me at this address. Tell me what the world is like where you are”,

says the end of the note. From her home in a floating community in the Gulf of Mexico, the bottle finds it’s way to a tiny island nation near Malaysia and into the hands of Kaya, a political prisoner whose prison hangs over a volcano.

 

Written in an epistolary fashion, Pen Pal is the intersection of Em’s and Kaya’s life, and it is fantastic story. What could a twelve year old girl from a  floating community have in common with a suspected insurrectionist? More than you might think.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.