Letters from the Inside by John Marsden
Letters from the Inside is a fiction novel written by Australian author John Marsden published in 1991. The novel follows letters exchanged by two fifteen-year-old girls Mandy and Tracey who begin writing after Tracey places an add in a magazine. Mandy soon discovers that Tracey has been lying to her whilst writing about her ‘perfect life’ when in reality Tracey is actually in a juvenile detention centre.
Throughout their letter writing Mandy reveals that she has an abusive and violent brother information that Tracey tries to disregard whilst Tracey begins to get in touch with her ‘softer side’. There is a strong relation to journeys being displayed throughout, as the girls begin to confide in each other, they both begin to develop and change greatly. The text is made up of a mixture of different types of journeys, with the main focus being of an emotional nature but with a mix of an imaginative and physical one being thrown in here and there.
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The author uses the format of letter writing as a very effective technique, instead of having to use lots of hidden meanings to portray the sense of a journey; the novel instead follows the girl’s direct thoughts making the emotional journey appear more obvious. The girls lives appear to be far from similar but the author has intentionally thought out the fact of placing Tracey in a juvenile detention centre as a hidden indication they both live in their own prisons which they cannot escape, Mandy’s prison being in a house with her abusive brother with two overworked parents who can’t see that he’s on the verge of loosing the plot..
The most obvious journey is that of the girls Tracey, the girl who is serving time in a juvenile detention centre begins her letters talking about a life she has imagined up, but as Mandy becomes suspicious and asks questions Tracey stops responding, afraid to open up and tell Mandy where she really is, Although as Mandy remains persistent in finding out Tracey overcomes her fear and writes a letter telling her where she is but quite mockingly, which begins with “OK wise guy, you asked for it, you want to keep snooping round in my life I’ll tell you the truth but you’re not going to like it.
This begins the first but most important step of the emotional journey she encounters throughout the novel. Through each letter she begins to open up more and more but there are still two things she won’t acknowledge this being whenever Mandy mentions her abusive brother Steve or asks about Tracey’s family. As you get further and further into the novel Tracey opens up more and more and it becomes apparent that she is suffering from depression another struggle she is facing, but after Mandy confronts her about being selfish she begins to change.
This becomes evident in one of the letters she sends which includes “And if you want to write about Steve, write about him. I know I was stupid the way I ignored what you said before. But I’ve learnt a bit since then. I’ve met a few Steve’s in my time” Her admitting that she has ‘learnt a bit’ represents the fact that this journey is becoming a change of life one. Eventually with the influence of Mandy, Tracey gives up on her ‘tough guy’ attitude opening up about her family and why she ignored anything about Steve.
She eventually even surrenders to the idea of change. Writing “I’m going to try to change, hell I’ve changed a lot already, I think. But you’ve got to help me OK? ” in her letter. Tracey begins to get no replies from Mandy and sends multiple messages which get returned, but she stays persistent like Mandy had been. The author includes this to show what she had learnt through her contact with Mandy. She has finally learnt for to feel compassionate towards another person again. This being the biggest lesson learnt from her journey.
Where as Mandy’s journey is of a whole different sense. She spends her days trying to escape her abusive brother and the emotional aftermath of it. Her journey is not only emotional but physical, she is getting physically harmed and her journey is trying to overcome that. Trying to do so she confides in Tracey and asks for advice but she completely discards it. Throughout the novel she gets more and more frustrated with Tracey just ignoring something as important at that and it really upsets her till she cracks.
An example of this is when she writes in one of her letters “How can you ignore my letter like that? I told you stuff about Steve that I’ve never told anyone, and you didn’t say a word about it! I was waiting for your letter and when it came all it had was bloody basketball. I can’t believe it! ” She begins sticking up for herself more after this which is a huge part of a journey, as she has learned to do so. By doing this her emotional strength begins to get greater, but her brother tears it straight back down time and time again.
Not only is her journey trying to get away from the destruction her brother is causing but it’s also in trying to help Tracey in any way possible. Through reading this novel I have learnt more about the inner strength needed to go through these emotional, change of life journeys and the support factors that are needed. The two girls had each other to lean on and help them through what they were encountering, the journey would have been a whole lot harder without this.