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Epistolary Novels for Teens

Updated on February 18, 2012

Originally gaining popularity in the 18th and 19th century with such epistolary works as Bram Stoker's Dracula, epistolary novels have seen a resurgence of popularity within the last decade. However over the past few decades, the genre has expanded to include not only the traditional letters or diary entries which made the genre popular but also novels written completely in newspaper articles, blog posts, emails, instant messages and more.

Catherine, Called Birdy - by Karen Cushman

Catherine Called Birdy
Catherine Called Birdy

The diary of Catherine, a 14-year-old aristocrat in Medieval England, which recounts the daily life of daily life during the 13th century including arranged marriages, medical practices which included the use of animal urine and religious practices.

Readers who like this novel may enjoy Cushman's other non-epistolary historical novels such as The Midwife's Apprentice and Matilda Bone.

 

The Color Purple - by Alice Walker

The Color Purple
The Color Purple

Required reading in many high school English courses, The Color Purple chronicles the life of Celie, a young African-American woman who is raped by her stepfather resulting in two children. Celie is later forced to marry a man named Mr. who also physically and mentally abuses her.

Winner of the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Official Alice Walker Website

 

Daddy-Long-Legs - by Jean Webster

Daddy-Long-Legs (Looking Glass Library)
Daddy-Long-Legs (Looking Glass Library)

Living in an orphanage, Judy Abbott can only dream about life beyond the walls. But when a benefactor agrees to pay for Judy's college education in a time when few women went to college, she jumps at the chance. In return, she must agree to write him letters about her daily life. Having never met her benefactor or been given his name, Judy addresses her letters to Daddy-Long-Legs as she once saw his tall shadow.

FREE Kindle version of Daddy-Long-Legs

Sequel: Dear Enemy

 

The Diary of a Young Girl - by Anne Frank

The Diary of a Young Girl
The Diary of a Young Girl

An epistolary non-fiction work chronicling the life of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl living in the Netherlands during World War II. Anne began writing her diary in 1942 shortly before being forced into hiding. Her writings continued for two years until they were found by the Nazi police and Anne's family was sent to Auschwitz.

Read more about Anne's life....

 

Ella Minnow Pea - by Mark Dunn

Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters

When the Nollopian government starts outlawing various letters of the alphabet, Ella Minnow Pea (prouncouned LMNOP) and other residents of the island nation must find creative ways to communicate including spelling words phonetically and using creative vocabulary.

Readers may notice similarities between Ella Minnow Pea and George Orwell's Animal Farm.

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

High school freshman Charlie writes letters to an unknown friend discussing his life including the suicide of a friend, drug use and sex.

Look for a movie adaption of the book in 2012.

 

Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot - by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

In true Regency tradition, this book by the author of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles has a title too long to memorize... Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country. Written as a series of letters between two aristocratic cousins (one of whom is in London for her first Season) in a fantastical 1817 Regency England who accidentally become embroiled in their neighbors' magical tufts.

Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country
Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country

Readers may find it fun to know the book was actually written by the two authors sending letters back and forth to each other. Neither knew where the plot would go next until receiving the other's newest "letter."

Sequels : The Grand Tour and The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After. There are currently no plans for further books in the series.

Official Patricia Wrede Website

 

TTYL - by Lauren Myracle

Ttyl
Ttyl

A ground breaking epistolary novel, Lauren Myracle claims TTYL is the first book to ever be written in Instant Message.

Chronicles the lives of three teen girls who face everything together including cute boys in French class, fashion, daily life and everything in between. Warning! Narrators use fowl language and talk about sexually explicit topics.

Sequels: TTFN and l8r, g8r.

Official Lauren Myracle Website

 

What is your favorite form of epistolary novel?

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Have you read one of the epistolary novels listed above? Did I forget your favorite teen epistolary novel? Disagree with one of my choices? Let me know what you think.

What is your favorite epistolary novel?

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    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Daddy Long Legs was such a sweet read. I loved it. Later I saw the movie made with Fred Astaire and loved that too.