Monday, July 13, 2015

Book Review: I Will Always Write Back

I Will Always Write Back
Title: I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives
Author: Caitlin Alifirenka, Martin Ganda, and Liz Welch
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Non fiction
Pages: 392
Age Rating: Readers over 10
My Opinion: 8/10

Hi, Readers!

       Guess who recommended that I read I Will Always Write Back?  My mom!  Boy, am I glad I listened to her (which doesn't happen very often).  I enjoyed reading this true story, and it is so unique and touching that, although it isn't particularly exciting or thrilling, everybody should read it if they have the chance. 

       Caitlin is a middle schooler who gets to choose a pen pal from a foreign country for a school assignment.  Wanting to be unique, she selects Zimbabwe, a country in Africa.  She drafts a short letter describing herself and her life in America as a wealthy, white tween.  When Caitlin gets a letter back in response from an African boy named Martin, the two begin a long-lasting friendship created through letters and photos sent back and forth.  Little does Caitlin know, however, that Martin is living in extreme poverty, and his entire family lives in one room shared with another man.  They hardly have enough food to eat and don't own proper shoes, while Caitlin lives lavishly.  As soon as Caitlin discovers the plight that her friend is in, she makes it her mission to aid Martin financially and support him in his academic endeavors, through thick and thin.  Through Martin's many struggles, readers are exposed to an entirely different way of life, and the power of Caitlin's generous helping hand shows that everybody can make an impact on the world.

Martin and Caitlin
Martin and Caitlin
       I was shocked and surprised on practically every page while reading I Will Always Write Back.  When I started the book, I was like, "Oh, sure.  Martin is poor."  However, I didn't understand the true meaning of poverty in Martin's community and in Zimbabwe.  Just think - Martin didn't own a pair of shoes until he was in HIGH SCHOOL.  Meanwhile, in America, toddlers stumble around in Nike sneakers and Uggs.  Additionally, my eyes were opened (once again) when Caitlin tried to send money to Martin.  Never would I have expected that the postal service may try to intercept letters and take out the money.  Plus, I never thought that twenty American dollars would be worth hundreds in Zimbabwe.  The vast wealth gap between the rich and poor is all the more evident in Zimbabwe than in the United States.  I almost couldn't believe how Caitlin's family's generosity was able to support Martin's entire family for years.  It inspires me to want to make a difference in one of these countries, and it shows how easy it is to completely turn around someone's life.

One of Caitlin's letters
One of Caitlin's letters
       The smallest details of life are discussed in I Will Always Write Back.  Although I believe that all of the information in the book was necessary, it was not all completely interesting.  For instance, a large portion of the story was devoted to Martin's college search in the United States, and it seemed to drag on and on when Martin was unable to receive a scholarship.  It may not have made the most exciting plot line, but I'm sure that Caitlin's family felt the same way in real life that I felt while reading.  Also, I wish that Martin's culture was discussed the same amount that Caitlin's was.

       All in all, this book is a must-read.  Sure, I only gave it an 8 out of 10 rating, but it is most certainly worth the time to read.  It almost reminds me of the book Nickel and Dimed in a sense, because it opens up the readers' eyes to how people manage to survive through poverty, hunger, stress, and a plethora of other issues that I could never even dream of.  Of course, the story concludes with a happy ending, but learning about Martin and Caitlin's tight bond throughout the years and Martin's success is heartwarming and inspiring.

Happy reading!

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