About Pen Pal
Em’s wistful message in a bottle finds its way to Kaya, imprisoned above the molten lava of the Ruby Lake. Both are living precarious lives, at the mercy of societal, natural, and perhaps supernatural forces beyond their control. Kaya’s letters inspire Em, and Em’s comfort Kaya—but soon this correspondence becomes more than personal. Individual lives, communities, and even the fate of an entire nation will be changed by this exchange of letters.
Pen Pal is a story of friendship and bravery across age, distance, and culture, at the intersection of the natural and supernatural world.
“There is humor and wonder, high tension and profound grief--altogether a vivid, memorable book.”
--Sherwood Smith (Crown Duel, Inda)
“A numinous story about stories and how they wind their way through lives and through communities.”
--Janni Lee Simner (Bones of Faerie, Thief Eyes)
“A first-rate novel with important depths concerning love, loyalty, and the meaning of freedom.”
--Kemie Nix (founder, Children's Literature for Children)
“What could a twelve year old girl from a floating community have in common with a suspected insurrectionist? More than you might think ... Pen Pal is perfect for the YA crowd, and for any reader looking for stories from the margins. And if you’re just looking for a damn good book with two empowering women, Pen Pal is that too.”
--Andrea Johnson, The Little Red Reviewer
"Sometimes, a book comes along that satisfies you completely — its characters make your heart happy, its themes make your soul happy, and its prose makes your head happy.
These books are rare. Pen Pal is one of them."
--Christina Vasilevski, Books and Tea
“Water and fire, ocean currents and rivers of lava, the Seafather who watches over those who live on the ocean and the Ruby Lady of the volcano, creatures of air and earth and sea, two communities in danger of losing their culture, all come together in this intricate and compelling story, like a pair of hands reaching out toward each other from ten thousand miles away.”
--Rachel Manija Brown (All the Fishes Come Home to Roost)
“The author writes with a light touch, moving from the magical to the terribly real.”
“The author shows a keenly felt sympathy for those marginalized by a biased majority. She touches subtly, but resonantly, on issues of race, politics, religion, and social and economic prejudices ... In a perfect world, Studio Ghibli would snatch up the rights to this and Hayao Miyazaki would come out of retirement to make this his final film.”
“I am a huge fan of anything that paints women/girls in a strong and positive light- where they can be seen as capable of changing the world. To my immeasurable delight, this novel encompasses those ideals. It revolves around two powerful, passionate girls who are so easy to root for and impossible not to fall in love with.”
“Francesca Forrest's Pen Pal is a mesmerizing story you just can't put down once you start it ... It would make an excellent choice for a book club and I plan on reading it again with my two boys.”
“My best friend introduced me to your novel Pen Pal, and my, what a breath of fresh air it is to encounter an author so original and insightful! I was born and raised in Daphne, Alabama, so the story had a personal aspect that I could not resist from the start ... you especially captured the soul of the people from whom the characters derived ... You have ignited the hope in readers that anyone's voice can be heard!”
“I had a pen pal when I was around 12 years old, a girl called Nancy from Boston USA; I'm 56 now and it made me think about the letters we wrote to each other and how we imagined each other's lives.”
--Reader (UK), Goodreads
“Loyalty, faith and bravery don’t sail so far from one another. It is so often that people show acts of bravery out of pure belief and devotion, out of loyalty in his friend or lover, out of faith in God just like Em’s in Seafather and Kaya’s in the Lady. And sometimes, our faith is just too colossal that we stand firmly by what we believe in, even if it is, at times, far-fetched. That is the power of faith and bravery combined. It ripples outward inducing power up to the shores. It is fierce and bold like the heart of a volcano. And it is just so beautiful how Em and Kaya were able to bring each other miracle out of this power."
--Reader (Philippines), Goodreads
“When I started reading it, I groaned a little since the protagonist is a 12 year old girl. But I soldiered on and found myself reading one of the better novels in recent memory. It is at once fantastic and completely believable, and throws together four cultures that echo each other. A taut ending makes for one of those reads that, when you are done, makes you take a minute to realize that it was just a story.”