TITLE: Love Letters To the Dead
AUTHOR: Ava Dellaira
PUBLISHER: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
GENRE: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
RATING: 3.5/5 Stars
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.
What I Liked:
- The writing in this novel was by far my favourite aspect and there were some beautiful turns of phrase. It was so quotable! It actually really put me in mind of Stephen Chbosky's 'The Perks Of Being A Wallflower' which was also a fantastic book with memorable quotes. The narrator of the story has to go through a lot of issues during the course of the plot, and so there's a lot of sensitive topics covered here in a sensitive, sensible manner.
- The plot itself, though slow in pace, was pretty well-constructed. There are a lot of different sub-plots to keep things interesting without taking away from the main focus of the story: Laurel dealing with the death of her sister. There were a fair few story elements that I really enjoyed, most of all a complex look at an LGBT relationship that's under a lot of pressure not to exist. The other high-school dramas may have felt a little childish at times, but they were pretty realistic for the most part. I loved the focus on friendship that this book included, and the fact that the romantic plot-line didn't feature too heavily.
What I Disliked:
- The characters as a whole were a little weak and definitely fit very obvious stereotypes. The one that disappointed me the most was probably Laurel herself. It was clear that her life had been very trying at times and she'd suffered through some very traumatic experiences but she spent a fair portion of the book crying and moping about virtually nothing. She was also pretty submissive most of the time, without showing even the slightest spark of strength for me to cling onto. Her dependence and neediness got a little eye-rolling. Everyone seemed to love her without her having displayed even the tiniest hint of interesting personality to love.
- Like I said, the plot pace is slow. That coupled with frustrating characters meant that at times, it felt a bit boring to read. There were times that it picked up of course, but for a three hundred page book, it was a bit of a trek. The letter-writing felt like a nice touch at first and I liked the famous people that Dellaira chose to write to, but after a while the novelty of it wore off.
This book produced a lot of mixed feelings on my part. At times I would be absorbed by Dellaira's gorgeous writing and my eyes would light up every time I crossed a particularly gorgeous quote. The plot too kept me interested to an extent. However, the book could be dull too, what with it's slow pace, frustrating narrator, and slightly lazy characterisation. Dellaira's crafted a good story and remembered not to let her sub-plots and romances take over, as well as handling some delicate matters well, but there were definitely parts that could have been edited out to make this book an easier read.