Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Gr. 8-12. 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. ~--Frances Bradburn
Horn Book Review
After Mandy admits to her pen pal Tracey that she is struggling with an abusive older brother, she eventually discovers that Tracey has been lying about her seemingly perfect life and that she is in an institution for juvenile criminals. The characters are vivid, each developed through her choice of language and response to the other girl's life. This is a true horror novel -- about horrible things that happen to young people and their very real reactions and frailties. From HORN BOOK 1994, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
In this haunting epistolary novel, two Australian teenagers try to discover the truth about each other and themselves. For Mandy and Tracey, who become pen pals when Mandy answers Tracey's ad in a magazine, the truth is not always easy to discern. At the beginning of their correspondence, it seems that Tracey's life is idyllic: She has a loving family, two gorgeous boyfriends, and more money than she can spend. Mandy, on the other hand, is solidly lower-middle class with a frightening and violent older brother. But when Mandy discovers that Tracey has been lying about where she goes to school, she looks back over their entire correspondence and catches other inconsistencies in Tracey's letters. She pushes Tracey to reveal her true identity and is unprepared when what she discovers is far more unbelievable than Tracey's lies had been: Tracey is in a maximum security prison for girls for a crime that she refuses to name. Mandy decides not to abandon her friend, and she and Tracey begin the long process of getting to know each other. With Mandy's help, Tracey is sure that she can rehabilitate herself, but what if she is forced to do it alone? Proof that originality need not be reserved for adults. Startling. (Fiction. 12+)