Published by Farrar & Straus & Giroux on April 1, 2014
Source: ARC borrowed thru Around the World ARC Tours
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 did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to 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 begin to discover her own path.
~ Laurel is just beginning high school, in a new school district. Although we learn right away that her sister May is dead, and the reason that Laurel is starting over in a school where no one knows who she is, the how and why behind May’s death is unveiled slowly.
~ The first dead person May writes to is Kurt Cobain, whom she feels she can talk to since her sister May loved him and his music so much.
~ Laurel writes that Kurt Cobain’s music sounds like there’s too much inside of him, and he exploded from not being able to get it all out.
~ From the very first letter I was hooked on this book! The way Laurel expresses herself, and feelings I’ve felt too, is just beautiful. From letters to Judy Garland to River Phoenix, to whom she writes that the first time she saw him in Stand By Me, she and May wanted to pluck him off the screen because he belonged with them, there was so much I could relate to, or wish I had thought.
~ So, even though the book deals with letters to the dead, we still read about Laurel’s current life. And while River and Heath might be movie crushes, Sky is her real life crush. “His vice sounded like gravel turning into grains of sugar.” Swoon! And while Amelia Earhart is one of Laurel’s idols, she writes of new friend Hannah, “She acts like she’s trying to find a way out of herself.” Just amazing. There are parts of this book that read like poetry.
~ I loved the complexity and layers of Natalie and Hannah’s friendship, and how they still managed to include Laurel into their world.
~ Do I have any issues with this book? Only that at times Aunt Amy comes across as closer to 80 than 40, with her love for Mr. Ed and her relationship with the dude who’s all Forest Gumping it across the country in his run for Jesus. However, Laurel’s not the only one changed throughout the book, so are all the other characters, no matter how minor they appear at first.
~ I’ve seen a lot of comparisons of this book to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I think is pretty valid, but to be honest, I wasn’t thinking of Perks at all while I was reading this book. I think Love Letters to the Dead will definitely appeal to the same kind of audience, but Dellaira brings her own unique writing voice to the coming of age tale. I connected with all of the characters, which is pretty amazing considering the format of the book being letters written to dead people.
Laurel- the author of all those letters to the dead, coping with the death of her beloved older sister and trying to find her own identity.
May- Laurel’s older sister, who despite being dead is still very much alive in Laurel’s memory.
Mrs. Buster- Laurel’s English teacher who first gives the assignment to write a letter to a dead person.
Aunt Amy- Since her mom’s in California, Laurel alternates living one week with her dad, and the next with her God loving & Mr. Ed loving aunt.
Sky- leather coat wearing hottie whom Laurel begins to fall for.
Natalie- Laurel’s new, artistic friend.
Hannah- Natalie’s best friend, her beauty covers up a lot of what’s going on behind the scenes.
Tristan and Kristen- very cool senior couple that befriend Laurel.
Janey- a friend of Laurel’s from her old school.
The Halloween party! From Laurel’s costume, to bobbing apples with Lord Licorice, to her moment with Sky, it was all pretty fantastic. Laurel may be finding herself in this book, but there are moments even early on where we catch glimpses of who she is at her core.
Stop the Clock:
I absolutely adore and love this book! I wrote down so many quotes that moved me, stayed up one night until 2am before I finally had to put the book down with the last 2 letters left because I was emotionally wrung out and needed a break (not to mention an allergy pill to help with my stuffed-up-from-crying-nose), and this is definitely a book I would gift. With a box of tissues, a bar of chocolate, and a handful of movies and cds that you’ll want to check out after reading this book.
Ava Dellaira— Website |@avadellaira
Love Letters to the Dead gets a Midnight Book rating of: