Monday, December 22, 2014

Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

From Goodreads: 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.

My Rating: 1.5 hearts only because the final 1/4 of the book was kind of okay; otherwise, this would have been a solid 1 heart

Thoughts on the Novel: Way back when Ava Dellaira’s Love Letters to the Dead was released, I saw a few glowing reviews for it, and got a copy, which I then promptly forgot all about. So, when I saw Wendy Darling’s review for Love Letters to the Dead a few days ago, and noticed that she compared it to Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, which I loved, I bumped Love Letters to the Dead to the top of my TBR pile. Sadly, I had a very different experience reading Love Letters to the Dead than Wendy.

There were multiple reasons why I couldn’t connect to Love Letters to the Dead, but the greatest reason why would be Laurel, the main character. For most of the novel, she was just one of those characters that follows the crowd because she’s so desperate to be liked. Within weeks of entering high school, for example, she’s skipping class, smoking and drinking because that’s what the girls she decides to be friends with are doing. I hate weak-willed characters, and Laurel is definitely one of the worst I’ve encountered! I also found it really annoying how she buried her head in the sand and refused to acknowledge that May, her sister, was less than perfect. While May was alive, Laurel never bothered telling her parents that May might have issues (e.g. creating the dead game, having a much, much older boyfriend, etc.), and then once May died, Laurel created this idealized version of her sister and tried to be more like her. Another reason why I had trouble connecting with Laurel was due to her inconsistent voice. For the most part, she came off as very young (which isn’t surprising because she’s only in Grade 9), but then she’d randomly start sounding like an adult. 

The romance in Love Letters to the Dead wasn’t great either. As an aside, I found it very creepy that all these high school girls were hooking up with college-aged or older guys. Focusing on Sky and Laurel’s romance though, their situation was total insta-love. Like literally, after a couple of extremely brief conversations, they decide to become a couple. The conversation when Sky decides he’s a boyfriend kind of guy was so clich├ęd and made me roll my eyes because I couldn’t fathom why this relatively popular junior would be interested in a loner freshman. Later, Sky explains to Laurel why he thought she was so interesting initially, and I was like, “Oh, that makes so much more sense.” After the explanation he gave her though, I would have dumped him, but Laurel, of course, continues to like him (probably because no other guy would be interested in her what with all the random bouts of crying she does).

Besides the issue of grief, Love Letters to the Dead also explores a variety of other issues such as divorce, trying to figure out one's identity, sexual abuse, physical abuse, etc. To me, none of them were handled with as much depth as they could have been; and I think I would have liked Love Letters to the Dead more if it had taken a less is more approach and dealt only with the related issues of grief and identity.

Love Letters to the Dead was released by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in April 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: I like the background, but not the font or the girl randomly sitting in the sky.


  1. This book didn't work for me either, Z. I didn't understand writing letters to dead celebrities but I guess people really do that. I thought the story was a bit slow too. Hope your next read is much better!

  2. I felt the exact same way when I read this book this summer. I have no idea how people felt positively about this book.

  3. This is isn't a fast-paced action book like my previous fictional choice, so steer clear if that is what you are looking for. Love Letters to the Dead is, however, an introspective and rather thought-provoking coming-of age-work that is written in an earnest voice, completely through letters directed to celebrities, and occasional poets, who have died.

    For me, it worked.

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