Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira Review: Get the tissues ready

May 2, 2014 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | Books, Reviews

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira Review: Get the tissues readyLove Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Published by Five Mile Press, Hot Key Books on May 2, 2014
Source: Publisher
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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It begins as an assignment for English class: write a letter to a dead person - any dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain - he died young, and so did Laurel's sister May - so maybe he'll understand a bit of what Laurel is going through. Soon Laurel is writing letters to lots of dead people - Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, River Phoenix, Amelia Earhart... it's like she can't stop. And she'd certainly never dream of handing them in to her teacher. She writes about what it's like going to a new high school, meeting new friends, falling in love for the first time - and how her family has shattered since May died.

But much as Laurel might find writing the letters cathartic, she can't keep real life out forever. The ghosts of her past won't be contained between the lines of a page, and she will have to come to terms with growing up, the agony of losing a beloved sister, and the realisation that only you can shape your destiny. A lyrical, haunting and stunning debut from the protégé of Stephen Chbosky (THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER).

Love Letters to the Dead is one of the most depressing, emotional, and heartfelt books I’ve ever read. But it is also one of the most worthwhile, highly relevant and beautiful experiences that I will ever read. As Laurel writes honest letters to famous people who have passed away unexpectedly, you can feel her aching pain and confusion over the trauma that she’s experienced. It’s a book that covers her emotional journey as she deals with loss, finding herself after losing her sister, and eventually moving on after traumatic experiences including divorce, death, and even abuse.

Laurel’s letters were confronting, honest and raw. Seeing her childlike innocence and naivety clash with instances that force her to grow up and age are really heartbreaking. As she begins the project, she slowly becomes more and more comfortable with her letters and reveals memories of things she doesn’t want to remember. She’s a lost soul at the start of the book, but eventually seeing her spread her wings, be herself and fly is a beautiful experience.

I guess we can either be angry about it forever or else we just have to try to make things better with what we have now. – Sky

Thankfully, she’s surrounded by an amazing support network and great secondary characters who help her come out of her shell. Ava Dellaira doesn’t shy away from addressing many real, ‘taboo’ issues here such as gay romance, coping with death, suicidal tendencies, teenage drinking and drugs, and molesting. She does it in such an elegant way that the reader can’t help but become attached to Laurel and her friends.

There were however, a few things that I found unrealistic. Laurel is only 14, starting grade 9 at a new school and she has been through so many traumatic experiences. While I’m not discounting the fact that this may happen in real life, her journey into maturity would have been better swallowed if she was older. The relevance of 60s rock stars, such as Jimmy Hendrix, Kurt Kobain and River Phoenix was also lost on me. I’m a 90’s gal, which makes me a lot older than Laurel, but I hadn’t heard of half of these people who apparently had a profound impact on Laurel.

There’s also a glaring anomaly with the time period – Laurel mentions that she went to watch Aladdin when it was out in the cinemas which was released in 1992 when she was 13, and then she watches The Dark Knight which was released in 2008. If she is only 14 now, how does that match up? These are small anomalies, but they kept on niggling at me while I read the book.

What I told you about saving people isn’t true. You might think it is, because you might want someone else to save you, or you might want to save someone so badly. But no one else can save you, not really. Not from yourself. – Tristan 

The friendship and romance were heart warming and well developed. Laurel has witnessed a range of relationships in her life, many dysfunctional. I’m so glad Sky is a sensible, caring and understanding guy who plays a big part in how Laurel perceives herself. Her best friends, Laurel and Hannah whose same sex romance slowly develops over the book was also addressed realistically, with the shame that Hannah felt, the avoidance and even promiscuity to ignore their feelings with each other.

For a highly relevant, beautiful, emotional and raw journey into coping with death and loss, Love Letters to the Dead is a wonderful debut. Be prepared for your emotions to be dragged out and your heart to be broken and slowly put together again, with a beautifully written book that will bring the tears.

Thank you to Five Mile Press for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

PS/Emma Watson loved this book too!


Rating: 4 out of 5

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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54 responses to “Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira Review: Get the tissues ready

  1. oh my!! This definitely sounds like something I WILL ENJOY! I'm a sucker for depressing and emotional books! (weird huh?) Will have to add this book to my TBR! Also, new follower of your blog!! You game as well! I LOVE THAT! Will tweet you about games :3

    – Farah @MajiBookshelf
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  2. I agree! This was such a beautiful, emotion-provoking book and I'm so glad you loved it so much Jeann! <3 I didn't notice the timeline inconsistencies, but now that you mention it I can see how you would have been annoyed by it! Thanks so much for sharing Jeann, and, as always, <b>BRILLIANT review! <3 Gah…so glad you loved it so much!
    Zoe @ The Infinite T recently posted…Dorothy Must DieMy Profile

  3. The unrealistic aspects and timeline issues worry me, but it sounds like overall this was a tear jerker. I do love the idea of the letters and you have me admittedly curious. Wonderful review Jeann.
    kimbacaffeinate recently posted…Giving In by Maya BanksMy Profile

    • Thank you Kimba, the timeline didn't really seem to bother anyone else so it might just be me. It is a fantastic book Kimba, that I definitely recommend to everyone.

  4. Thanks Francoise, its a very deep book and I hope that you enjoy the journey! I looked up how old she would be in her grade and she's quite young. But yes, I'm glad it does touch on the important issues.

  5. Ah yes, I meant the celebrities were probably at their peak a bit earlier than the 90s, but thanks for pointing that out Pili, I appreciate it. If you loved the same celebrities, this book would probably be a lot more relevant to you. Thanks Pili! <3

  6. Yeah, I do the same Amanda until reviews tell me it's good, because otherwise how would we know? It will bring you to pieces, it's so sad. Thank you Amanda! I hope you do read it.

  7. Yeah, I think I'm missing the point with the movie references, she's just trying to relate to famous people who have passed away. I think she included Heath Ledger because that's one that we can all relate to as of recent times, otherwise the rest will be the oldies.

  8. Oh those timeline flubs would annoy the bejeezus out of me. Maybe she saw Aladdin in one of those theaters that show older movies. lol – okay, I'm reaching here. This really does sound good though despite that.
    Christy recently posted…London Falling by T.A. FosterMy Profile

    • Yeah I know, I think she was more talking about people who were relevant to her personally, but applied it to a character that was a lot younger. So it was really weird for me. But anyway, I think I'm hung up on a minor detail, the book was awesome 🙂

  9. Oh my god Jeann i've been dying to get my hands on this book because i've heard so many great things about it but i've been worried since i know that it's really emotional. I love the idea of the MC writing letters to famour people who have died and on some fundamental level that really reaches me. I love how you said the author doesn't shy away from topics and really handles difficult subjects perfectly.

    I can't wait to get my hands on this one!

    Lily @ lilysbookblog
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  10. This book sounds intriguing and while I'm not a person who likes reading books in a letter format I do like the concept of how the character is writing to famous dead celebrities. It sounds kind of morbid, but I look forward to see which celebrity she chooses to write to. I wasn't sure if I should read it, but glad you gave it a positive rating on it. 🙂

  11. I've been seeing this book everywhere and the concept has always drawn me in, but I have yet to pick it up. It sounds great though, so maybe I'll ad it to my summer TBR.

  12. I have been wanting to read this book for a while, and hopefully I'll get to it this month! I love the format through letters and I love that she'd be addressing dead celebrities like Kurt Cobain and River Phoenix cause they did while I was a teenager and I can feel their relevance. Which btw brings me to a point in your review, Jeann… Both Kurt Cobain and River Phoenix died in the 90's (Kobain 1994 and Phoenix in 1993) not the 60's.

    Great review anyways, and thanks for the warning about the emotional tears and need for tissues!
    Pili recently posted…Friday Reads: The Liberator by Victoria Scott!!My Profile

  13. I'm 100 pages in and I'm loving it. This book is very deep and I love how the author doesn't shy away from important topics. I didn't realise she was meant to be 14 but I totally agree with you. I had never heard of these people before and I'm only 15 sooo…but I have to say the whole drugs and things isn't a surprise because as much as people like to think this doesn't happen at this age…it does.

    Woah the whole time period thing…didn't notice. Now I am! Ah!

    Great review 😉
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