TITLE: Love Letters to the Dead
AUTHOR: Ava Dellaira
GOODREADS’ AVG. RATING: 3.89 out of 5 stars; 9,383 ratings
It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person.
Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven’t forgiven?
It’s not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was—lovely and amazing and deeply flawed—can she truly start to discover her own path.
In a voice that’s as lyrical and as true as a favorite song, Ava Dellaira writes about one girl’s journey through life’s challenges with a haunting and often heartbreaking beauty.
I admit, when I first read the synopsis of this book I was incredibly excited about it; I loved the idea of utilizing the writing of letters to tell a story. While I found myself enjoying the story, I didn’t find myself as emotionally invested or moved by it. I don’t know whether that is the fault of the format, or if it was the writing, or if it was because ultimately the story was in regards to a subject which I had experience with and because of that connection, my own memory of the events and how I handled them clouded my ability to remain unbiased. Regardless of the reasoning behind my seeming disconnect from this novel, I still found myself enjoying Laurel’s story as a whole.
What I found to be the most impressive part of this novel was how it remained true to the mentality of an inexperienced, teenage girl. I am using the term inexperienced quite loosely, I don’t mean it in a strictly sexual manner but rather, she is inexperienced at being who she is. Laurel is so caught up in her idolization of her sister May that rather than being who she is and who she is supposed to be, she attempts to be May. Ultimately, Laurel utilizes her attempt at being May as a way of coping with not only her death, but what happened to her while May was supposed to be protecting her. This novel features a great amount of emphasis on the idea of acceptance of not only loss, but accepting who you are in light of the negativity of your own human experience and that is beautiful.
Another facet of this novel which I enjoyed was the choice of individuals Laurel was writing to and how each one of them represented something or someone special to her. She wrote letters to people like Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, River Phoenix, Amelia Earheart, and others…each one of them embodying a different focus for her letters ranging from memories of her sister, to experiences with her friends, and learning how to be brave in the face of the seemingly impossible. Each letter allowed and helped Laurel to grow and to better understand not only what happened to her, but ultimately what happened to May and that is all that we look for when we are faced with a great loss…all of us look for a sense of understanding.
TL;DR REVIEW: 3.75 out of 5 stars. My rating in this case is sort of weird, I think it deserves higher than a 3.5 but it isn’t of the caliber that I would consider it to be a 4, so 3.75 is going to have to do. As I said, I was very excited for this book when I saw synopsis of it on Amazon and Goodreads and while I did enjoy it, I didn’t love it. It is definitely a good book to pick up when you are looking for something to read in between two series or if you’re looking for something on a more serious note with a still seemingly playful and unique format.