Friday, November 6, 2015

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Publication Date:  April 1, 2014
Publisher:  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux 
Pages:  336
Series:  Stand Alone
Genre:  Contemporary
Synopsis:  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.

Review:  I don't know what I expected from Love Letters to the Dead--other than it was most likely going to be a bit depressing, considering the title.  I certainly did not predict that the book was going to be so touching--even to my Vulcan heart.

Laurel, the girl writing these letters to the dead, occasionally writes with the voice of a fanciful poet--spitting out metaphors and astute observations.  Other times, she sounds just as she is--a teenage girl making rather poor and rash decisions.  While this inconsistency is bothersome, overall the writing is flowery in the best of ways.

If beauty is truth, and truth is beauty, they are defined by each other, so how do we know the meaning of either?

The plot unwinds slowly, taking its time to develop and reveal all it has hidden away.  This is not necessarily a good thing, as there are chapters where it all just seems like hot air.  

While the premise of the story and the plot twist are not entirely original, the sensitivity Ava Dellaira exhibits in writing about the extremely delicate topics shows the compassion and skill of a good author.  She presents the issues in a realistic and appropriate manner, not skating around the matter but also not shoving it into your face.

 And maybe what growing up really means is knowing that you don't have to be just a character, going whichever way the story says. It's knowing you could be the author instead. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum is how Laurel deals with high school drama and peer pressure.  As in, she doesn't deal with them at all and simply submits.  While it is understandable, I just couldn't bring myself to care about such juvenile problems.

Laurel is passive and she is alone.  I can't say much about why this is so fitting without spoiling the book, but I will say that her lack of character depth is the depth of her characterization.  Let's hope that makes more sense when and if you actually read the story yourself.

As for the other characters, they are a cast of all kinds.  From the rebellious best friends who just may be in love with each other to the older couple who act as interim siblings, each is distinct--if not always likable.

I think a lot of people want to be someone, but we are scared that if we try, we won't be as good as everyone imagines we could be.

That brings us to the romance.  I feel as if I am transforming into a grumpy old woman, because I am so done with angsty teen romances and insta-love.  While Laurel and Sky's relationship is authentic, that is my complaint.  Teen love...yuck.  Sweet...but still, yuck.

Love Letters to the Dead is a heartfelt story about more than a teen girl writing letters to Kurt Cobain because she heard Smells Like Teen Spirit on the radio that one time.  Ava Dellaira clearly still remembers in vivid clarity what it is like to be a teenager and writes a poignant, although often exaggerated tale of teenage dramatics and loss.

3.5 Keys


  1. I really liked this one but can totally see all the things you didn't like about it. I am excited to see what she writes next. reat review!

    1. I really enjoyed this one and I wonder WHAT she will write next??? Thanks for commenting!

  2. HAHA I'm sorry you didn't like the teen love in the story! I'm sort of a hopeless romantic, so I have a huge love for cutesy romances and teen love. But I completely understand why that didn't click to you. Laurel sounds like an interesting character, but some parts of the book seem to be bringing up some issues :( Sad. I'm still looking forward to reading this book! I'm so curious. And plus, gorgeous cover :D

    Jillian @ Jillian's Books

    1. I'm such a non-romantic person I might as well be Sherlock Holmes. It WAS cute, I will admit. Just not for me, I guess. Laurel is...interesting. The situation she is in and how it changes her is cool to read about. It IS sad, though, but very heartwarming. And, yes, that cover is AWESOME. Thanks for commenting, Jillian!

  3. Love Letters to Dead just sounds interesting, doesn't it? The title, the blurb and the cover are all fabulous but... I'll have to read to see if the story is pretty fabulous too! Thanks for sharing your brilliant review Erin! Have a great day. :)

    anna | annaish

    1. The title is what drew me in to start, I admit! The story inside was NOT disappointing at all. Thanks for commenting, Anna! XD

  4. I didn't care much for the romance, but ohmigod this book poked holes in my heart. It was sad and touching, but hopeful, too. :)

    Julie @ Books and Insomnia

    1. The romance was a bit angsty for me, but the book is so heartwarming that the message held great impact. Thanks for commenting! :D