Love Letters to the Dead

Love Letters to the Dead
Author(s)
Age Range
12+
Release Date
April 01, 2014
ISBN
0374346674
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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 in this stunning debut from Ava Dellaira, Love Letters to the Dead.

Editor review

1 review
Letters to the Living
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
3.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Reading Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira was a somewhat strange experience. I knew from the start that this book would probably make me cry. And I was right. But not for the reasons I thought. To start back at the beginning, let me just say that I really loved this book. It reminded me so much of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. But it wasn't the letters or even certain events that made me think about Perks, but rather, it was the way this book seemed to break me in half, shattering me, and then putting me back together again.

I suppose the thing about being put back together, as I'm sure Laurel could explain too, is that when the glue dries, you realize you've become slightly different from the previous version of you. That's how I felt waking up the day after finishing this; eyes still tired, heart still broken over the book I'd finished the night before. I felt like I was different for having read those words, which is truly special.

I've never lost anyone in the way that Laurel loses her sister, May. But I think we all can agree that losing people, whether to death or life is just as painful. And this book is really about the living. It is through a bunch of letters written to people who are dead that Laurel is brought back to life.

This epistolary novel reveals the heart and soul of human nature in a way that feels authentic. The prose is permeated with beautiful, lyrical lines that whisper about the amazing power of one word after another after another; creating magic. Laurel talks about this kind of magic. Sometimes it makes her sad. And sometimes it makes me sad to think that we all have the power to create magic, but not the ability to see it when we should.

Reading about those who have passed on recreates them and Dellaira gives us a way to see Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse and even Heath Ledger again. She helps us remember that people are memories and that if we hold on to them they will never really be gone. And that's magic too. Remembering is a gift.

Whether or not you've experienced a loss like Laurel's, this book is just as wonderful! Sometimes we need stories to help us understand life and this is one of those stories. So pick up a copy of Love Letters to the Dead today!
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User reviews

1 review
Overall rating
 
3.0
Plot
 
3.0(1)
Characters
 
3.0(1)
Writing Style
 
3.0(1)
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A bit disappointed
Overall rating
 
3.0
Plot
 
3.0
Characters
 
3.0
Writing Style
 
3.0
For a school assignment, Laurel must write a letter to someone who has passed away. She chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister May loved him and they both died too soon. Laurel finds herself writing letters to many dead celebrities, revealing everything from a new crush, new friendships to secrets like what would happen when she and May were supposed to be at the movies together. Through the letters, Laurel starts to accept what happened to her sister and maybe she can finally move on.

I was really excited for this book because the concept sounded interesting. The whole book written in the style of letters to dead celebrities as a way to cope with the main character’s sister’s death? It sounded different and I like reading different narration styles, especially when they work well. Unfortunately, for me, there was a lot about the style that didn’t end up working.

The two major issues I had with the letter style narration. First, there was a lot of explaining the celebrity’s life to them that just seemed strange. They lived through it, they don’t need to be told they’re parents divorced or they were in a movie. It was hard to lose myself in the story when all I could keep thinking was Laurel was listing off facts about their own lives to them. Second, because the whole story was in letters, a lot of the time it felt like we were getting a short recap of her day or a moment instead of something that felt a little more complete.

That said, I did like how Laurel could take parts of what she knew or learned about the celebrities and apply it to her own life, and watching her slowly come to terms with what happened the night her sister died. Writing can be therapeutic and this was the first time I’d seen a character use it to such an extent. The side characters, and the depth they showed, was also really nice. I was worried about how characters other than Laurel would fare in a letter narration but Dellaira still managed to give them depth and show growth.

While the narration didn’t work for me, I think there’ll be readers out there who will fall in love with it and with Laurel and her friends.
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