Letters of Note in YA Lit

By Rachel F. RSS Wed, April 26, 2017

I hear tell that April is National Letter and Card Writing month and I thought, well, you could always write to your congressperson, but in addition, you could also read some books about letter writers. While not necessarily epistolary novels (which, as I’m sure you know, is a fancy way of saying the whole book is just a bunch of letters), I thought maybe I would share a few of my favorite young adult novels featuring letters with you.

In To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, author Jenny Han writes what would have surely been my high school self’s worst nightmare. Lara Jean has written letters to all of the boys she’s ever loved, but she never mailed them—they were safely hidden away in a hatbox! But, as often happens, somehow the letters got mailed to the boys and things start to get... complicated. Can’t you just feel the character's cheeks turn red from where you are? The great news is that if you like this one, we get to see more of Lara Jean’s funny, complicated, and totally relatable world in two follow-ups: P.S. I Still Love You and Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Daniel Handler (you may know him better as Lemony Snicket) took a different route with Why We Broke Up. We first meet our hero Min as she is having a friend drive her to drop off a box of items and a letter to her soon to be ex-boyfriend, Ed. The letter explains to Ed why they are breaking up by highlighting a different item from the box in each chapter. We see their whole relationship arc, from first infatuation to eventual disillusionment; subtle illustrations by artist Maira Kalman give this book an extra punch. P.S. Netflix, this would make a really great show. (*cough 13 Reasons Why cough*) 

Ok, so we have done social humiliation and heartbreaking break up letters – let’s move on to European scavenger hunt and burgeoning romance! Ginny’s aunt, an artist, has just passed away when Ginny receives a package with 13 Little Blue Envelopes (coincidently the title of Maureen Johnson’s super fun romp) and a thousand dollars. Each letter contains directions that lead our hero on a journey across Europe to find her aunt’s now very valuable paintings. Along the way, Ginny has experiences that help her learn about herself, her aunt, and obviously, Europe (Paris you guys, amiright?). If you are looking for a sweet, fun story that won’t demand too much of your brain or your tear ducts, then you have come to the right place. If you like this one, I promise you will also dig the sequel, The Last Little Blue Envelope.

So these are my favorite novels involving letters – tell me yours in the comments!

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Daddy Long-Legs, old as it is always seems relevant (and charming to me). A young orphan finds emancipation from drudgery, higher education, and a wide open world through funding from her anonymous benefactor. You'll probably figure out who he is but it is a lovely book.
Susan Golden - North Carolina (former FLP librarian)
Wednesday, April 26, 2017