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.
Grab a cup of tea or hot cocoa for this review, because there is going to be a lot of raving, especially with the writing. Most of this review will probably be quotes being that my copy of Love Letters to the Dead is filled with highlights. Ready? Let’s go.
Nirvana means freedom. Freedom from suffering. I guess some people would say that death is just that. So, congratulations on being free, I guess. The rest of us are still here, grappling with all that’s been torn up.
I didn’t think I would love this book. I was expecting a fluffy, contemporary coming-of-age story with some romance and paranormal elements. But what I instead received was a story about a damaged girl trying to heal. Yes, this is a sad story, but if you read all the way through, this novel sends several amazing messages. Like the importance of forgiveness and family and friends and independence.
Sometimes when we say things, we hear silence. Or only echoes. Like screaming from inside. And that’s really lonely. But that only happens when we weren’t really listening. It means we weren’t ready to listen yet. Because every time we speak, there is a voice. There is a world that answers back.
I was hesitant to read an entire book told through letters. At this point, I’ve read a few books similar to this, and it can be quite hit or miss. But Dellaira is still able to create a vivid cast of characters with emotions that you begin to feel yourself.
I have found that sometimes, moments get stuck in your body. They are there, lodged under your skin like hard seed-stones of wonder or sadness or fear, everything else growing up around them. And if you turn a certain way, if you fall, one of them could get free. It might dissolve in your blood, or it might spring up a whole tree. Sometimes, once one of them gets out, they all start to go.
Love Letters to the Dead deals with some tough subject matter, and I admire Dellaira for doing so. I love YA literature the most, but I often find quite a few YA novels tend to skim over the important topics. This is, of course, okay. I also like a light read here and there–I think we all do. But I think it’s crucial for writers to embrace that tough topic and write about it with the whole of our hearts. Luckily, as the community is growing and speaking up, we’re seeing more diversity in many ways.
Sometimes, the smallest gestures take up the most room.
It was words like these that made me stop and think. This novel brought attention to issues I was already aware of, but it opened my eyes further. I think this is why it’s important for everyone to read a novel like this in order to understand others on a different level and not be so quick to judge. Everyone has their own stories and struggles, and that’s crucial for us to remember.
This plot, for the most part, is your basic coming-of-age story. You have your broken girl who is struggling with friends and a first love. But with Love Letters to the Dead, we have the unique twist that it’s all told through letters and it focuses on other subject matters. This isn’t the story about a broken girl who finds love and the boy fixes her. (Cue my gagging, because those are my least favorite sorts of stories.)
This is a story about a girl who finds herself through the words and development of others, as we all do. I think we are made up of all things that have broken and healed us. We are made up of the words we hear and the actions we’ve witnessed. Whether someone comes into our lives and leaves a positive or negative mark, we can always learn and grow from their presence. And that makes us a stronger individual. So I suppose we do need other people to grow, but we don’t need them to save us. (Which, by the way, is another message throughout Love Letters to the Dead.)
And now I’m kind of going off topic. I’m just going to stop before I end up writing another novel.
This review is already MUCH longer than I intended, so let me (try) to keep this brief. But basically, THE CHARACTERS WERE AMAZING. They were flawed and reckless and curious. They were human, and they were beautiful.
Each character starts out quite crippled by their fears, which leads to them doing things they may not normally do. Our main character, Laurel, for example, fell into peer-pressure fairly often in the beginning of the novel. Though I wouldn’t do something like that, I could understand why Laurel was doing it, especially after reading her back story.
Each character had their own personal struggles and they handled it in completely different ways. That was, again, something I greatly appreciated and made me understand why some people may act the way they do.
I simply adored the characters. Though the romance was a bit much at first, I can understand it. I’d like to say that I don’t let crushes consume my mind and that I think ridiculous thoughts, but I do. I think we all do to some point. And that’s okay.
Two five-star reads in a row? This is a rare occurrence, but a fantastic one. Love Letters to the Dead was such an incredible read that has still stuck with me. This is a book I could easily imagine rereading in the future when I need something to devour quickly.
If you have not yet read Love Letters to the Dead, I highly recommend picking it up. As I said, this isn’t necessarily a happy story, but it gives you so much insight on people and struggles we may not know of. It’s stories like this to teach us to be aware and open-minded, and I think those are always important lessons.
Do you enjoy coming-of-age stories? Do you like when books discuss heavy subject matters or not? Have you read Love Letters to the Dead? And if so, did you enjoy it? Let me know and leave any other thoughts or comments down below.