Book Review: “I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives”

Review by Mary Jedlicka Humston

I will always write back

If you don’t think one letter can change a life, then you haven’t read I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives co-written by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda with Liz Welch. This teen/young adult memoir details how a random pen pal pairing changes the lives of two teenagers: Caitlin, an American girl, and, Martin, a boy from Zimbabwe.
When pen pal exchange letters arrive in a Zimbabwe class of forty students, there are only ten letters from an American class. Thanks to Martin being a top student, he is designated to receive a letter which fatefully happens to be Caitlin’s. That letter, that one letter, changes the lives of both teenagers and their families.
The book adeptly travels chronologically and is nicely interspersed with actual letters and biographical details of both students who live vastly different lives; one, in abject poverty; the other, in the upper middle class.
Even though I am far, far from a young adult, I can attest to the universal appeal of this book. Teen readers and beyond will enjoy it. And, while I’d love to go into more details, I’d rather let the reader have them unfold on their own, which I think allows them to appreciate the book even more.
So, I give this book a high recommendation. Read it and see how one letter, just one hand-written letter, changed lives. Maybe it will even change yours.