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By Paula Danziger and Ann M. Martin
Hodder Children's Books, Great Britain, 1999, pp. 283, £ 3.99

By Avi
Simon & Schuster, London, 2003, pp. 260, £5.99

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 11 November 2005

Snail- Mail No More is a refreshing read for the sheer simplicity and honesty of the work. It is also unusual in that it is written almost entirely in the form of e-mails. The novel centres around two best frie-nds Tara and Elizabeth who converse mainly through the e-mail. Tara, the more loud and outspoken of the  two lives in Ohio with her young “not even thirty” parents and is not so anxiously awaiting the arrival of her new baby sister. Elizabeth on the other hand, more shy and retiring, comes into her own after her drunken father abandons the family and she has to help her mother keep the house going. As these two friends pepper each other with e-mails about just about everything the reader becomes involved with the minutiae of their lives—from crushes to poetry to getting grounded. But this novel is much more than just a recital of the lives of two teenage girls. What sets it apart is that in between long descriptions of “back to school” clothes and social studies assignments (which involve taking care of egg babies?!) come glimpses of issues universal to relationships in general. The story progresses with the changing relationship of the girls as they grow from “best friends” (who lived in the same locality and went to the same school) to two separate individuals with distinct opinions, personalities and lives. Without going overboard on sentiment the novel explores the perennial stumbling blocks of all friendships like jealousies, rivalries and communication glitches. Perhaps the best part of this novel lies in the way these two handle these issues with insight far beyond their years and emerge friends inspite of or perhaps because of these differences.   “…… when we were younger and used to illustrate our writing with pictures. You always liked colouring in the lines and I didn’t.I think that’s the way we are about a lot of things. But that doesn’t mean that one picture is better than the other, that one is more “perfect”. They are just different” (p. 242).   Dotted with similar little homilies some humour and a few extremely bad puns, this book makes for very entertaining reading, Crispin – The Cross of Lead on the other hand begins on a much grimmer note. The story is about a boy “Asta’s son” who has practically no identity save this. Shunned and ostracized by ...

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