Letters From the Inside is a young adult novel written by Australian author John Marsden. It was first published in 1991.
The story is told in the form of letters exchanged between fifteen-year-old girls, Mandy and Tracey. They begin writing after Tracey places an ad in fictional magazine GDY.
The two girls share information about their lives from school, to family, to relationships. Mandy reveals that her brother is abusive and violent, information which Tracey tries to ignore. It appears to Mandy that Tracey's life is perfect, as she has a wonderful boyfriend, rich and caring parents, and she is close to her siblings. However, inconsistencies start appearing in Tracey's letters, and when Mandy questions her on them, Tracey stops writing. Mandy refuses to give up, and finally Tracey replies with the information that she is in fact in a juvenile detention center, and will be there for a long time. Tracey expects Mandy to no longer want to write to her, but Mandy continues to do so.
Their relationship becomes even deeper now that they are completely honest with each other. Mandy, however, occasionally frustrates Tracey with her naivete as Tracey claims she is not as "nice" as Mandy claims, and becomes angry when Mandy makes a joke about tunneling into her cell and staying with her.
Throughout their letter writing, Tracey seems to get in touch with her "softer" side, which includes writing an essay about her Nanna. She wins an award for the story, and asks Mandy to celebrate for her.
Towards the end of the book, Tracey finally confesses the truth about her family and gives her reason for not wanting to hear about Mandy's brother. Mandy never replies to the letter and never writes again. Tracey continuously writes, getting increasingly worried, especially when her letters are sent back to her with "Return To Sender" on them, not in Mandy's hand writing.
- Tracey, a young troubled girl, is the protagonist of the book; her letters start the novel off. Tracey lies about her real life at first, but after she realizes she has been caught in her lies, she starts to tell the truth. When Mandy first tells her about her brother, she tried to avoid the whole subject because she wants Mandy’s life to be the perfect teenage life. Tracey is 15.
- Mandy is a girl who seems to be lost in the world, but compared to Tracey, her life is well defined. She is the other protagonist of the book. Mandy is afraid of her older brother, and she thinks there is something seriously wrong with him. Desperate to talk with someone about her fears, she turned to Tracey. Mandy is also 15.
Anita Silvey of Horn Book Magazine in her review of Letters from the Inside wrote: "John Marsden writes another riveting story of young women with much to say and much to escape from."
Frequently Asked Questions
Most Frequently Asked Question:
"I would like to email John Marsden, but I can't find his email address on the site - can you please tell me what his email address is?"
Although, like everybody else, I love getting emails, I am not quite so keen about answering them. That's probably much like everybody else too. I have had to take my email address off the website, as I felt obliged to answer each one I received, and although many of them were wonderful and moving and memorable, I soon found myself doing nothing from 7 pm to midnight, every night, seven days a week, but answering emails. So, with the greatest regret, that's why my email address isn't here. Hope you enjoy the site anyway, and that the FAQ's are of some help to you if you had something specific you wanted to ask. Best wishes, John Marsden.
I would love to know, if you could tell me, what Tracey was in prison for in Letters From the Inside, and why Mandy suddenly stopped writing... is it because she got attacked by her brother or something else?
You can work out the ending for Letters From the Inside by reading Mandy's last letter, and reading Tracey's dream on Boxing Day. Not only can you work out what happened, you can even work out what time it happened.
Are you still running writers' workshops at Tye Estate?
Unfortunately I've had to put writers' camps and writers' conferences on hold for a while. Much as I love doing them, it is impossible to run the school, teach there full time, keep my own writing career going, AND have a life, all at the same time! But, watch this space, as I'm keen to revive them further down the track.
Were the ideas for the Tomorrow series bubbling inside you for a long time?
Yes, for many years I had a vague idea that it would be interesting to write about an invasion of Australia, but I hadn't thought about it much and I didn't know quite how to go about it. It's always tough to tackle a huge thing like an invasion or a war. Gradually I started to realise that the only way to do it would be to write about one small group of people, not to attempt to tell the story of the whole war.
I think that is the same for any big topic. You tell the big stories by telling a mini-story. You tell the story of Cyclone Tracy by telling the story of a couple of individuals or families.
Are there going to be any more books in the Tomorrow Series or the Ellie Chronicles?
Much as I love Ellie and her friends, I will never never never never never never never never write another book about them. On the other hand, nothing in life is certain. No one can tell the future. On the other hand, I am not a politician, and I generally keep my promises. On the other hand, I miss Ellie. On the other hand, 10 books is enough. On the other hand, I'm curious to know what happens to them next. On the other hand, I want to move on with my life, and write other stuff. Does that answer your question? I hope so, because I don't have any hands left.