Author: Ava DellairaPublisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Page Count: 327 pages, Hardback
Date Published: April 1st 2014
Find it on Goodreads: Love Letters to the Dead
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.
Holy smokes guys. This book completely threw me for a loop and took me by surprise. I LOVED IT. So. much. I don't think I've felt this way about a standalone contemporary in a long. time. This book touched on a lot of things that I have some personal experience with and I felt so connected to Laurel in a way that kind of terrified me. It's kind of hard to put into words my feelings for this novel, as I do connect with it so closely, so I'm sorry if this review is a little shorter than usual.
The style of this book is absolutely marvellous. It is similar to Perks of Being a Wallflower in the sense that it is all written in letters to these people who don't write back, but in this case, it is written to multiple famous people who are dead. These people are ones that the main character, Laurel, connects to or feels has helped her in some way and throughout these letters, she writes all of her thoughts and feelings, her questions, her ponderings... It's a wonderful way to see how she develops throughout the story. Some have said that they didn't enjoy her character very much because she was somewhat immature and naive, but the thing is, she's a 14 (?) year old girl who has been through a bit of a traumatic experience and is now living through the aftermath of that. I'd find it pretty unrealistic if she was portrayed as one of those 'strong female characters' that are all the rage lately who have no emotion or real depth. Laurel was trying to find who she was without her sister and in that process found people in her life who helped her get through the experiences she had that she wasn't ready to talk about yet. Love Letters to the Dead is a stunning novel about love, loss, friendship, family, and secrets. It is an impressive and important voice in the collection of YA novels that deal with mental health and healing and what it is to let people in, to let yourself recover, and to be alive. I am so excited to see what Ava Dellaira comes up with next.