Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review: Love Letters to the Dead

Love Letters to the Dead
Author: Ava Dellaira
Published: April 1, 2014
Hardcover, 327 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

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 did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to 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 begin to discover her own path.

Laurel is quiet, a freshman in high school and still trying to get over her sister's suicide. So when the teacher tells them to write a letter to a dead person, she decides to write to a lot of them, each one with a mysterious death or suicide and each one important to her life or her sister in some way or another. By writing these letters, she can finally let herself reveal the truth of what happened that faithful night, while also opening herself up to new friends, love, and acceptance.

The writing in the novel is authentically young. Laurel writes normally, using no big words and simple thoughts that flow over the pages beautifully. She connects to each dead celebrity in their own way and the way she writes to each of them reveals how she feels about them as a whole,. When she is writing to Kurt Cobain, the letters are mostly about her sisters death, but when she writes to Amelia Earhart, she writes more about school and her future. It's heartbreaking to read and remember these celebrities and their lives that they left behind. Dellaira weaves together a story through these letters that reveals so much and so little. The further Laurel gets into the school year, the more she opens up as she has made new friends and is going out with Sky. Laurel is experiencing everything for the first time even though she has experienced more than any regular 15 year old has. This book deals with some serious issues while a girl tries to over come some things that happened in her past. It reminded me a lot of The Perks of Being a Wallflower in the way it was written and the voice of the main character. The simple writing that sometimes sounds too young for a 15 year old that leads up to some major events that happened in her past to make her write this way. It's what bothered me about Perks and it bothered me in this book as well.

The letter aspect was great. I love the idea of writing to dead famous people, especially since I know about all of them and how they died. Dellaira incorporated many famous deaths and in that revealed how Laurel feels about May's death and everything that led up to it. Part of me loved this book, but part of me is still wondering if 4 stars is too much. It will stay on my bookshelf, unlike more 3 star rated books, but I'm not sure I'll be reading it again. Maybe if I was a bigger Nirvana fan, but I kind of hate that band and wish there were more letters to Heath Ledger instead.

“I know I wrote letters to people with no address on this earth, I know that you are dead. But I hear you. I hear all of you. We were here. Our lives matter.” 

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