Love Letters to the Dead
author : ava dellaira
pages : [hardcover] 327
memorable quote : You can be noble and brave and beautiful and still find yourself falling.
favorite character : laurel
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.
Love Letters to the Dead is unlike anything that I have ever read before and I say that in the best way possible because I ended up really loving this book. It’s told solely through a series of letters written by Laurel, all addressed to people who have passed away. This morbid assignment turns into a way for her to express feelings and come to terms with memories that she was repressed from herself and avoided mentioning to those who love her. Laurel is having a hard time with May’s death and the reader doesn’t quite know why for most of the book because Laurel isn’t willing to speak about it.
What I found unique about the choice of letters is that several could come from a certain day when Laurel needs to let out her feelings or weeks would go by between letters and we’d only know that from Laurel mentioning that it is so. The reader has no control and needs to piece together what the narrator isn’t mentioning as well as put together the clues that she happens to leave about her past and her hopes for the future.
Laurel was a fantastic character because she just seemed so real to me. She’s a typical teenager trying to find herself and has to go through this hardship at the same time. While not every teen can say they’ve experienced that kind of loss, I think that those who are teens themselves as well as older people who remember their teenage years will be able to relate to Laurel and her chaotic, emotional life. She isn’t perfect; far from it. Similarly, her life at school and her relationships with the people around her are peppered with imperfections that only add to the realistic vibe.
By the end of the book, I was severely emotionally invested in these characters. I wanted to know what had happened while I simultaneously dreaded finding out the truth. Just like I think Laurel needed to tell her secrets but also didn’t want people to see her differently for them. She had me shedding a few tears by the end of the book, which, despite the heavy material, I hadn’t expected.
I really love this book and think that a lot of people will also love it. I’d highly recommend reading it when you have plenty of time to read through the whole thing. You will get hooked, you may cry, and you’ll love the journey anyway.