Saturday, March 29, 2014

ARC Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Love Letters to the Dead
Author: Ava Dellaira
Publication: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (April 1, 2014)

Description: 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.

My Thoughts: This book was lyrical, poetic, heart-wrenching and heart-breaking. Every page was filled with quotable lines. The language was so wonderful. The whole story is revealed to us in a series of letters to dead people.

Laurel takes her first high school English assignment - to write a letter to a dead person - and uses that to resolve some very difficult issues in her life. She is trying to come to terms with the sudden accidental death of her beloved older sister May. Laurel has always adored and admired her older sister and her sense of loss in incredible. May's loss follows the breakup of her parents' marriage and her mother's move to California. She spends one week with her father who is grieving himself and doesn't seem to know how to talk to Laurel and she spends alternate week's with her mother's older sister who is very religious.

Laurel's letters to Kurt Cobain, Judy Garland, Elizabeth Bishop, River Phoenix, Amelia Earhart, and others gives her the opportunity to look at her perceptions of them and apply them to her own life. We see her at a new school tentatively making friends and trying to find out who she is. Her new friends have issues and problems of their own. Hannah and Natalie are best friends who are also attracted to each other but Hannah is also dating at least two guys at a time and sometimes doing things that are not very wise. Laurel's other friends are seniors Tristan and Kristen who are in love but whose lives are bound for different paths after high school with Kristen heading off to college on the East Coast and Tristan going to community college at home and pursuing his music.

Laurel also finds, loses, and finds her first boyfriend again. Sky is also a newcomer at the school. Rumor has it that he was kicked out of his previous school for fighting. He is popular without being part of any crowd. He's everyone's friend but no one really knows him. The two of them make a great connection but they break up when Laurel can't open up to him and he feels bad that he can't know her.

This book was amazing. I loved savoring the words and I loved watching Laurel begin to heal and become her own person. I can't wait to share this one with my high school readers.

Favorite Quote (From a letter to River Phoenix):
Sky reminds me of you a bit, honestly. How he's a boy, and strong, and the air makes way for him when he walks through it. But also how there is something fragile like moths inside of him, something fluttering. Something trying desperately to crowd toward a light. May was a real moon who everyone flocked to. But even if I am only Sky's street lamp, I don't mind. It's enough to be what he moves toward. I love to feel the wings beat.
I got the ARC from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

1 comment:

  1. I have heard so many amazing things about this one - glad you liked it!


I love getting comments. Let me know what you think.

This blog is now officially declared an Award Free zone! I do appreciate your kindness in thinking of me and I am humbled by your generosity. Your comments are award enough for me. Comment away!