It’s not just little brothers who like to get a peek into someone’s diary. The diary can make compelling reading for anyone. And because September 22 is National Dear Diary Day, it’s a great time to give one a try. From the 17th century historical insights brought to us by the diary of Samuel Pepys to the true-to-life thoughts of young Anne Frank in the midst of the Holocaust, we see directly through another person’s eyes in a diary.
Because of the deep impact of the diary as storytelling, authors have used fictional diaries, novels written in the first-person perspective as if it were the character’s real diary. These novels contain first-hand accounts from one character or several characters to tell a story. But the diary style is only one type of novel that falls into the larger Epistolary Novel genre, meaning novels in the style of first-person documents, such as letters, diary entries, blog posts, or even texts.
Here are a handful of Epistolary Novels that have piqued the interest and curiosity of young readers:
- The Diary of Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (diary)
- The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot (diary)
- Don’t You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey by Margaret Peterson Haddix (journal entries)
- Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys (journal entries)
- TTYL by Lauren Myracle (instant messages)
The genre is popular with young adult readers, too:
- Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (diary)
- World War Z by Max Brooks (interviews)
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (letters)
- Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding (diary)
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker (letters)
Readers are drawn to the intimacy of letter or journals. Perhaps it’s the feeling of peeking over someone’s shoulder as they write their most personal thoughts. But as technology gives us more and more ways to document our lives, new styles can’t be far behind.
A novel in Facebook posts, perhaps?
Dennis Quinn is a 2016 Mass Literacy Champion and is the Director of Mentoring Programs at Reader to Reader in Amherst, Massachusetts.