Thursday 26 June 2014

Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Name: Love Letters to the Dead
Author: Ava Dellaira
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Summary: 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.

Review: Ava Dellaira released her debut novel, a young adult contemporary titled Love Letters to the Dead in April of 2014. Love Letters is the story of Laurel a teenage girl whose sister, May died six months earlier. The format of the book is written in letters but not to anyone living person, but to famous people who have died tragically at a young age. Letters to Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Janis Joplin, E.E. Cummings and more; it is to them that she can relate what she is feeling. She can openly talk about what she is thinking and it is to them that she is able to find an equivalence to May because of the way that their lives ended.

The way the notebook of letters starts is that there is an English assignment that Laurel’s class is given where they are to write a letter to a dead person. And it is in this that Laurel finds relation. Written in a journal-type format Laurel is able to write about the dealings in her everyday life and also talk about May.  It is about more than Laurel learning to face what happened to May, to deal with her death and the affect on her life. It was incredibly realistic to me. Although she is searching for some type of understanding with her sister’s death, she also discovers a lot about herself and realizes that she has her own past that she needs to confront. For me, Love Letters focused more so on self discovery and learning to grow.

And the writing in this story—flawless. There were times that I would read a chapter, stop and then re-read it because it was just that beautifully written. This is not something that I do very often, but sometimes I would read something and it was almost as though reading some beautiful piece of poetry. Cannot wait for a second novel from Ava Dellaira to be released! 


Dark Readers said...

Woah Jen great review. I have this in my to be read pile and I am even more intrigued now. Hayley

Jesse Owen said...

I really, really want to read this one - I'm interested to see how the letters format works - great review :)

Decking for sale said...

It's interesting: I hadn't heard of this book until I received a targeted promotional email about it from Stephen Chbosky, author of one of my favorite books of all time, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. This book tapped an emotional reservoir that Chbosky's book did, albeit coming from a different place, and like Wallflower, it's a book that will stay with me.

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