Published by Five Mile Press, Hot Key Books on May 2, 2014
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