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Letters from the Inside

Letters from the Inside

4.5 23
by John Marsden

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Mandy and Tracey have never met, but they know everything about each other. Connected through a pen-pal ad, they exchange frequent letters, writing about boyfriends and siblings, music and friends. They trade stories about school and home. They confide their worries and hopes. It almost makes it easier, and more special, that they’ve never met—they can


Mandy and Tracey have never met, but they know everything about each other. Connected through a pen-pal ad, they exchange frequent letters, writing about boyfriends and siblings, music and friends. They trade stories about school and home. They confide their worries and hopes. It almost makes it easier, and more special, that they’ve never met—they can say whatever they want in the safety of their private world of letters.
But that private world may not be as safe as it seems. Can Mandy trust Tracey to be who she says she is? What secrets hide between the lines of their letters?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A chilling psychological drama plays out in the correspondence between two teenage girls. "The heart-wrenching conclusion will exert its power long after this book is read," said PW in a starred review. Ages 12-up. (May)
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-A powerful book, set in Australia. Mandy answers Tracey's ad in a magazine and the girls, both going on 16, become pen pals. The fluff of their early letters depicts two teens who are almost indistinguishable from one another. Soon, before these lively yet innocuous exchanges become tedious, there are hints that Tracey is hiding something. She reveals that in truth, she is in a maximum security unit of a correctional institution for an unspeakable, unnamed crime. She is big, she is tough, and she is scared. The universal, brutal truths of young women living together behind bars is made perfectly clear by her blunt descriptions. Mandy's life, compared to her friend's, is almost idyllic. Her timid complaints about her brother's violent outbursts are easy to ignore. His poor academics, hot temper, and collections of weapons and Rambo posters are rationalized away by Mandy's loving but overworked parents, as are her fears of being in the house alone with him. Then, mysteriously, Mandy's letters stop. The story is over. The tragedy of this novel is that these bright young people are not hopeless. Their lives are salvageable, if only someone with the power to help would listen. Perhaps Marsden intends, through shock, to sensitize his readers to the real-life tragedies hidden behind white-picket fences and masks of toughness; perhaps therein lies the hope. Consisting entirely of the correspondence of the two girls for exactly one year, this book is also an anatomy of a friendship. It will draw its readers in completely and cut them off with a jolt. Purchase it, read it, recommend it to mature teens and to adults.-Margaret Cole, Oceanside Library, NY
Frances Bradburn
In this Australian twist to an answer to the personal ads, two teenage girls begin a correspondence that gradually reveals more than either young woman wants known. Both Tracey's and Mandy's initial letter writing focuses on fictitious charmed lives--Mandy, on her best friend Cheryl, her nameless dog, and the brother whom she calls "Idiot"; Tracey, on her even more perfect life of wealthy, loving parents, ideal older siblings, and a horse. Each succeeding letter strips away the girls' facades. Mandy's brother is frighteningly violent; Tracey is in prison. Marsden does a maddening job of providing just enough information; the letter-writing format allows him to induce this suspense with full credibility. The reader never knows what Tracey's crime is nor learns much about Mandy's brother's violence. Be prepared for utter despair as teens finish this book, however. The ending is frustratingly honest and overwhelmingly powerful.
From the Publisher
"Proof that origin-ality need not be reserved for adults. Startling." Kirkus Reviews with Pointers

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.25(w) x 6.89(h) x 0.45(d)
740L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

August 1

OK wise guy, you asked for it, you want to keep snooping around my life I'll tell you the truth but you're not going to like it.  You heard of Garrett? Well if you haven't I'll tell you.  It's a maximum security place, where they put you if you're bad, and if you're worse than bad they put you in A Block, and that's where I am and that's where I've been for eleven months and that's where they're going to try to keep me for a long time yet, but not if I have any say they won't.  So now fuck off and get out of my life.


Aug 10

Well, that sure worked didn't it? Thought it would.  Now you know why I never told you in the first place.  So thanks for proving me right.


August 15

Tracey, that's not fair.  I've started about ten letters since you finally wrote, but I couldn't finish any.  None of them seemed right.  I don't know if this'll finish in the rubbish tin like the others.  I don't have a clue what to say.  Your letter blew me away.  I admit that.  But at least now I can guess why you put the ad in, and I can see why you didn't tell the truth about where you were.

I looked up Garrett in a telephone directory and a street directory and I've been trying to find out a bit about it.  But it's not easy.

I honestly don't know what to write.  I think all I can do is send this off and hope you'll answer.  And I really hope you do.

See you,


Aug 19

I don't know what to write either.  I only put the ad in as a joke, one day when I was sitting round with nothing to do (like every day).  I never meant it to end up like this.

Keep writing if you want.  But don't expect much back.  I wouldn't know what to say.


August 24

Dear Tracey,

Thanks for writing back.  I'm still in a state of shock, I admit, but something makes me keep writing.  I'm curious about you of course—don't be offended—it's just that I thought I was getting to know you and now I find I don't know you at all.  And I do feel ripped-off, because there I was pouring my heart out to you, and now I wonder if you've been laughing at me and showing my letters to your mates so they could all share the joke.

I don't think you would, mind you, because I still think I know you a bit, but it's a matter of trust I guess.

So what's the true story?

I thought I'd bring you up to date with what's happening in my life, but it's harder now.  It seems so insignificant compared to the kind of life you must have.  And it's so long since I wrote you a 'proper' letter, I can't remember what I told you.  I think I was still with George then.  That does seem a long time ago.  Anyway, he dropped me a while back, no special reason, we're still good mates, blah blah blah.

So, what can I write that's going to interest you? I don't know any more.  I've got the same problem as you—I don't know what to say either.

I hope you write again but.



Dear Mandy,

Don't you understand? The reason I put the ad in? I wanted to know what a real life was like.  I wanted to know what normal people do.  That's why I liked your letters.  That's what I want you to write about.  I wanted you to write about your family and school and all that shit.  I wanted you to be normal, the world's most normal person.  That's why I hated hearing about your brother, because when you started talking about him, and the fights and everything, you were sounding like me or anyone else here.  And I didn't want that. Twenty-four hours a day is enough.

So that's all you have to write about.  It's easy for you.

And I don't show your letters to anyone, although I don't blame you for wondering.  And I don't laugh at them.  In my twelve months (nearly) yours (and the other ones from the ad) are the only letters I've had.

You asked a while back about my Nanna essay.  Well, seeing you asked, I'll tell you: it got an A+ and the teacher said she was going to enter it in a competition.  See, I can do some things.  And not everything I told you was bullshit.

Have you told Cheryl and them about me? About being in Garrett I mean?


Meet the Author

John Marsden’s highly praised series concludes in this thrilling installment that will bring readers to the edge of their seats and keep them there until the last page is turned. John Marsden is one of Australia’s best-known writers for young adults. His work has received critical acclaim and has earned a cultlike following worldwide. The popular Tomorrow series has been translated into seven languages and has sold over one million copies in Australia alone.

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Letters from the Inside 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It wasnt a happy cheerful book, but it will leave a mark on everyone who reads it and seriously i dont think i will ever forget reading it. The ending was perfect even though it was different. I found the ending to be kind of disturbing. But still, it was short and will leave you thinking about it for a long long time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book for the first time at least 12 years ago and recall getting a lump in my throat and crying by the end of the book. More than a decade later, this book still puts a lump in my throat.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Daria Mueller More than 1 year ago
this book gets you to think about, how life can be....recommend it to everyone!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was a really really good book I pretty much read it non stop but the ending tore me up. I want to know what happened so bad I mean you kinda have an idea but I want to know for sure but other than that it is a freaking outstanding book
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was really cool. I am 12 and I just finished the book. My mom said it was dumb because of the ending, but I believed it would be interesting from the other reviews. And I was right. Glad I read the book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i read this book when i was like 12 and recently remembered it (im 19 and i still remember it) i remember being slightly confused when i read it the first time but pretty much knowing what happened. i think that all of you know exactly what happened to mandy but you dont want to admit it. if you want me to tell you exactly what happened, email me and ill get back to you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved the book it was beautiful if your thinking about reading this novel I say go for it it was one of many books I seldom like. Does any one know how the book ends...
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is fantastic. It envokes emotion and holds the reader's interest throughout! It is one of a kind and strongly reccomended to those seeking a quick phenomonal read! The characters are fun to read about! This book is truly excellent!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book shows how close to people get. Sometimes they get out of contact but always come back together or do they. This in a word unforgettable book will keep you going till it all stops flowin. This book really does keep on going till it all stops flowing. Have fun reading!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book about 10 minutes ago and got online to see more of John Marsden's. It took me only a little while to read today yet it was so good, like I had to turn the page to see what'll happen next...I have to say the end made me mad...I was like, 'What in the hell happened to Mandy!?!?' But I really enjoyed it because I can relate to Tracie a lot...
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best books I have ever read and I would suggest it to teenagers, but I just finished the book tonight and was a little mad, I want there to be a second one or something, I don't like wondering what happened to Mandy... I need to know! Gerrrrr!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The perfect book for teenagers, reading the dramas of life and trying to hide secrets from friends as most of us do.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the best book I've ever read! The end freaked me out abit but leaves it up to your imagination. I recommended it to a friend of mine today and she hasnt put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was at the library about a year or so ago, when I decided to check this book out. It's bluntness attracted me, and so did the development of the characters. Half way thrugh the book, you KNOW who these people are. Recently I bought this book, and I just finished reading it for the second time a few minutes ago. I am stil crying. This book had me sobbing. I STRONGLY advise you to read this book. It will haunt you for the rest of your life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This has to be the best book i've ever set my eyes on. I stopped by the library in 1st period at school today to get a book. I needed to earn some points so I thought I would just grap a little book that wouldn't take to much time. To my suprise i read it all in a little over 2 hrs. I just couldn't put the book down! The ending was creepy though, made me wonder if her brother happened to pull something on the family?!?!??? It makes me so much want to ask the author. I defiently recommned this book to teenagers and older. It isn't quite sutiable for the younger ones.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this has got to be the best book i ever wrote. It is such a great book for teenage girls to read because maybe they can relate in some way like trying to hide secrets from close friends. i think EVERYONE shoudl read it!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Letters from the inside was an excellent story. It showed the secrets and fears that come from every teenagers mind. I felt this book was amazing, and every word describes the true feelings of two confused young women. However the book has still left me wondering how exactly it was that Mandy stopped writing. I have a feeling of how it ended yet it leaves me in question. Definatly an outstanding book. I will never forget it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can't put it down. Each time I read it, I finish it in a day. It's the best book I have ever read! I love it. I never get bored of it. I've read it three times already! My favorite book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was an alright book but I really dont get the ending ? can someone explain it please?
Lilly Holt More than 1 year ago