Put Down the Book and Drive!
I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives is the hard-to-put-down true story of two children from different countries who became pen pals. Caitlin, an all-American 12 year old, had a school assignment to write to a student in another country. Martin's class of 40 students got 10 letters, and because he was the top student, Martin got one. That letter started a life-long friendship. After 1 or 2 letters Martin and Caitlin were the only two in their classes still writing to each other. They bonded instantly and became each other's best friend.
Caitlin assumed that Martin's life was pretty much the same as hers, just in another country. She didn't know what it took for Martin to earn enough money for a stamp. She sent school photos and snapshots of her house not understanding what was involved to get photographed and how costly a photograph was in Zimbabwe. She also didn't imagine that when Martin took her photos to school everyone would start to believe she was a princess because of the size of her house and the number of cars in her family.
Caitlin's gifts of a T-shirt or a pair of shoes were an overwhelming luxury to Martin's family. We learn earlier in their relationship that Caitlin did, that Martin's house is a one-room building that is shared with another family and that Caitlin's gift of sneakers raises the status of Martin's family in his community. We learn that Martin's family could buy groceries for one month with the single dollar that Caitlin sent to show him American money.
This engrossing book follows Martin and Caitlin's relationship from childhood through college. It is a story of discovery and disparate lifestyles as well as determination and the resilience of the human spirit. It is an uplifting example of what can be accomplished with unwavering focus, tenacity, and some help. My tween found it riveting to the point that schoolwork was a forced distraction from the focus of fun reading. We recommended it to a friend who found it so captivating that it was actually a temptation to pick up the book at red lights. (Luckily, sanity and caution prevailed!) The book is available in the non-fiction area of your local library branch as well as online through OverDrive. With an AR level of 5-8 this book is one the whole family can enjoy.
If you like this book, you may like these other books that NovelList says are similar:
We Beat the Street by Sampson Davis is the young adult version of The Pact, a novel about beating a life on the streets through determination and the support of friends. The Pact is also available as an eAudiobook through Hoopla.