“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”

Posted on December 5, 2016 «
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book review pen pal francesca forrest

Book Review

Pen Pal by Francesca Forrest

Pen Pal by Francesca Forrest caught my eye in Toronto in 2015. The idea of pen pals connecting and inspiring each other to achieve great things sounded promising, but in the end it didn’t quite deliver.

Since the story is told in via the journals Em and Kaya write as well as the letters they exchange it was hard to gain a true outside perspective regarding the causes they were fighting for. I understood why each girl individually was fighting, but I didn’t understand how their fights connected to the outside world and to me personally. As a result, I had difficulty identifying with and feeling connected to Em and Kaya.

The most puzzling thing about this book is it genre. I found it in a bookshop that specializes in science fiction and fantasy novels. There is some mysticism in Pen Pal, but it seems firmly rooted in a somewhat present time with contemporary political and natural weather events. Not that the book needs a clear genre, I read plenty of cross-genre books. However, I went in expecting more of a fantasy bent based on what the bookseller told me and the type of bookstore I purchased the book in. I struggled when the tiny bits of mysticism and fantasy crept in because it didn’t quite mesh with the over all contemporary fiction bent of the novel. As a reader, I felt required to accept the otherworldly elements with no explanation.

Pen Pal might be a good fit for young readers who won’t necessarily question the seemingly random fantasy elements that caused me a great deal of confusion. This novel might also inspire younger reader to be activists and fight for noble causes. As an older reader, I’m not sure this book was a good fit as I spend most of my time puzzling out what type of book this was and finding a way to connect with the young characters and see the world from their point of view.


book review pen pal forrest


The Quick Book Review

“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”

Pen Pal

Author: Francesca Forrest
Published on: December 14, 2013
Pages: 354
Genres: young adult, general fiction
Goodreads • Amazon Affiliate Link
My Rating: Thumbs Down

About Francesca Forrest

(no bio listed on GoodReads or Amazon)


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2 responses to ““Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”

    • Yeah, there were some mystical religious things happening the story…Kya is suspended over a volcano. My brain just couldn’t wrap around how that was possible since it was an active volcano plus there were some visions and other stuff. Like I said, I think younger readers, which is the true audience for this, might not ask so many questions and enjoy it.