Review: Love Letters to the Dead

Posted August 25, 2014 / Book Reviews / 1 Comment

Review: Love Letters to the DeadLove Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Genres: Young Adult
Published by Macmillan on April 1st 2014
Format: Audiobook (327 pages) • Source: Audible

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.

Review: Before I say anything and you think three stars means this is going to be mostly bad review – it really isn’t. I liked this book. I just didn’t love it and I found a lot of things that I didn’t connect with. I was so excited about this book; I loved the cover and it had been on my wish list for a very long time. When I saw the low audiobook price, I knew I needed it. I planned to listen for Bout of Books while driving up to spend a few days in Maine. I was able to finish it within 2-3 days thanks to the heavy amount of driving. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this book, but it didn’t really end up meeting them. The thing I really liked about Love Letters to the Dead was the fact that it was written strictly in letters. I absolutely loved this format; it worked perfectly for the storyline. I loved seeing who Laurel was going to write the letter to (she stuck to the same few people) and how she was going to relate her experiences to the dead person’s. The person she wrote to always connected, in some way, to the letter and to her life. That was a really cool touch, especially because they were people I knew and loved too. The book had some amazing quotes that made me wish I was able to highlight on my Kindle. I can see why people described this book as beautiful, poetic, and powerful. As far as the writing and the format go, this book could have easily been another star or two. However, there were just so many things I didn’t connect to. Laurel, while trying to connect with her sister and gain some confidence, literally morphed herself into May. She used her clothes, some makeup, and tried out her attitude/confidence. I get it. She wanted to be close to her while also gaining some closure. I feel like it was just taken too far. While she’s hanging out with her new friends or talking to people or doing literally ANYTHING, she’s wondering how May would have done it…and then tries to do the exact same thing. I don’t mind a book where I don’t connect with the main character as long as I enjoy the plot and the rest of the book – but it was so ridiculously difficult to connect with Laurel while she was pretending to be someone else. I didn’t know who she really was. She spoke so rarely of things that SHE herself liked or wanted to do…and the things she did mention were complaints or self-loathing comments. She fully admitted that she was trying to be like her sister throughout the book, so I know the author did it purposefully, but it just sucked trying to connect with someone who wasn’t herself. It made it SO difficult to get to know her and care about her story. The other characters were kind of interesting, but they all had simultaneously too much and not enough going on. They all had their own issues with relationships or their families or both, but they also weren’t super developed beyond that. I liked her friends and her boyfriend, but I couldn’t help but think they all liked who she was because she was acting like May instead of being her own original person. She was constantly on edge- wondering if they liked her, if she’d be invited, or if she was doing something wrong. She had no confidence of her own so she used her sisters…and even then, she often fell flat. As I said, I GET what the author was trying to do. I get the point she was trying to make… but it just didn’t resonate with me. For a book with a lot of heavy subject matter, I just didn’t care that much. I feel like this all sounds kind of harsh, so I’ll emphasize again how my issues with Laurel were really the only thing that took this book down to three stars. Ava Dellaira’s writing style and quotability is sky high. It really is. I can say with some confidence that I would investigate other books by her. She was really smart with writing the story through letters because it helped gain as much insight as possible into what Laurel was actually feeling. Overall, this book wasn’t a knock out for me, but oddly enough, I think I would recommend that people give it a shot.

One response to “Review: Love Letters to the Dead

  1. This is the first, and only, less than four star review I have seen for this book, but you explained your likes and dislikes very well. Many people veiw three star ratings as bad, but your three stars are like mine, perfectly good, but nothing to jump up and down about. I give very few five stars, so my three stars are more like everyone else’s fours. I have been meaning to read this book since I first saw it out there as an ARC. I read very few Contemporaries, so it usually takes me quite awhile to get around to the two or three I am interested in each year. I am also drawn to the letter format of this novel. Thank-you for such an insightful review.

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