Hi everybody, and welcome to a new Top Ten Tuesday!
Today’s topic was a freebie and I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about a trope I love dearly, and yet doesn’t seem to be very popular in common media: the pen pal romance. I LOVE pen pal romances. Maybe it’s because I myself am an awkward potato in real life and am much more comfortable expressing myself in writing. I just love the idea of opening up to someone in writing and falling in love with the other person’s writing and words, without even knowing what they look like. Whenever I come across this concept in a book, I am reduced to a swoony, smiling pile of happiness on the floor. Seriously.
Also, please note that when I say pen pal romance I include the whole range of pen pal media: written letters, email, chat or texts. Either one does the trick for me!
So without further ado, I present to you my nine favorite pen pal romances:
We all know this one by now, but just as a refresher: this book is about Simon, a gay kid who isn’t out yet to anyone, except to his pen pal Blue. Unfortunately that all changes when the class clown discovers his emails to Blue and blackmails him to help him with his love life. It sounds dark and blackmailing to out someone is a serious topic, and yet this is one of the CUTEST books I ever read and that’s all due to Simon and Blue and their adorable emails.
When Jessie’s mom dies she’s forced to move across the country to live with her father and his new wife and stepson. She’s having a tough time being away from her friends and trying to adjust to life at her new school, until she gets an e-mail from someone called SN (Somebody/Nobody). SN is such a big help and Jessie begins to rely on them – even falls in love?
What starts out as scribbled song lyrics on a school desk, turns into a full-blown pen pal romance in this adorable Kasie West novel. I especially loved this because a lot of the bonding Lilly and her mysterious pen pal do is over music and I’m a sucker for musical bonding, but also because this book features another favorite trope of mine…
I’m calling it now, The Flatshare is my favorite pen pal romance on this list… at least for now. This story’s about two people, Tiffy and Leon, who share a flat. And a bed. But have never met. Sounds fun, right? Tiffy and Leon are roommates, but because Leon works nights, they never meet – so they start communicating through post-it notes left around the appartment. It’s the most cute and adorable romance ever, while at the same time still dealing with some heavier topics such as emotional abuse and gaslighting.
When Juliet’s mom passes away, Juliet takes up the habit of writing her letters and leaving them at her grave. Until one day Declan, who is doing community service at the cemetery and battling demons of his own, picks up one of the letters and answers it. The two end up bonding over their shared grief and it is both a heartbreaking and heartwarming read.
I know, how can a Cinderella-retelling have a pen pal romance? Well, it can in this geeky, modern-day retelling when Elle gets an accidental text (meant for her father, creator of the ExcelsiCon convention) and ends up texting with the sender and bonding about their shared love of sci-fi series Starfield. Little does Elle know she’s actually texting with the actor playing her beloved prince in the series – an actor Elle is not a fan of herself. Or is she?
When Ruby Santos signs up to write a soldier overseas, she thinks she knows what she’s getting herself into. But when she’s assigned to Aaron, the two strike up a friendship though their letters neither of them have had before. A friendship that blossoms into something more over the months they write each other. This story was the sweetest – it’s a big slow-burn that’s told only through letters and texts for the first 60% or so of the book, but trust me when I say that the slow-burn is worth the wait.
This book is slightly different from the others, in that the two characters have briefly met before they start their pen pal relationship (in this case, by texting). Penny just started college and meets Sam through her roommate. When she finds Sam having a panic attack a bit later and helps him out, they share numbers and become each other’s ’emergency contact’. They start texting and help each other deal with all their issues, which makes them build a friendship and more, all through texts.
The final book on this list is also slighty different from the rest of these, but this time because the two main characters don’t actually communicate with each other. Lincoln is an internet security officer, which basically means he spends all day reading and checking the emails people in his company send to each other. Which is how he starts reading the mails Beth and Jennifer send each other in which they discuss their personal lives. And before he knows it, he’s invested in their stories and falling for Beth. But how to even begin telling her that? It sounds a little creepy, but Lincoln really is the sweetest and this story was just charming and funny.