Review: Love Letters to the Dead
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Publication Date: April 1st, 2014
Format/Source: Hardcover, purchased
Rating: 3/5 stars
Part of a series? Nope!
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.
PSA: This review contains spoilers.
This book has been on my radar since it came out, and when I saw the author was on the list for YALLWEST, I totally used that as an excuse to urge myself to finally buy it. While I did like reading Love Letters to the Dead, I don't think it completely lived up to my expectations.
The novel is written entirely in letters Laurel has written to dead people either she and/or her late sister admired. I enjoyed the background each letter offered into each of the people's lives and careers, especially since I wouldn't consider myself an expert on any of them, but I had problems connecting to Laurel's voice. I wouldn't consider her an "unlikeable" character or anything, but we didn't really click; the best characters are the ones that come alive around you, and I just didn't see that happening with her.
Love Letters deals with really serious subjects like sexual abuse and abuse within a family. These are all important things that I feel should be brought up in YA more often, some of it felt like a bit of an after thought, especially when it talked about how Laurel was sexually abused before her sister died. Those scenes felt rushed to me, like they could have been expanded upon more. I felt it was skimmed over, and the readers weren't fully given the chance to see how Laurel came to terms with it.
A point in favor of this book is that it's a hodgepodge of diversity. It features same sex relationships, coming out, growing up poor, and single parents, among other things. There were many things about Love Letters that did not work for me, but its representation of diverse characters is not one of them.
Love Letters to the Dead is one of those books that I liked the idea of better than the book itself, though I did enjoy it. There were parts that could have been executed better, but overall it wasn't a bad book, I just don't think it was for me.