March 20, 2014

Latest Read: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Here are the basics ...
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Publication date: Apr. 1, 2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Category: Young Adult - Contemporary
Source: Received ARC from publisher (Thanks!)

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, Heath Ledger, and more. She writes about high school, 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. (Adapted goodreads.com)
My thoughts…
The good: Love Letters to the Dead begins when Laurel is starting high school, hoping for a fresh start. She gets an assignment in English class to write a letter to a dead person and instead of stopping with a single letter (to Kurt Cobain), she begins an entire notebook filled with them. Letters to Kurt, River Phoenix, Judy Garland, Amelia Earhart and more. Each of the people she chooses carries a special significance and she shares her innermost thoughts and feelings with them as she makes friends, falls in love, remembers her sister who passed away and confronts her own demons from the past. But she also shares anecdotes with us about these famous people which sheds some light on her fascination with them. (And further piqued my own interest!)

I'll be honest, I didn't realize the entire book would be written completely in letters. I'm pretty sure I've never read an epistolary novel before and I'll admit, I was skeptical. But the writing was so gorgeous and Laurel's story was absolutely heartbreaking. Whether or not this form of storytelling is for you, the characters and insightful, candid thoughts of this young girl will be affecting. Laurel’s voice and her observations of the people in her life carry the plot and many complex themes are explored as a result. There’s the typical friendship, boys and wanting to fit in aspect of high school that’s completely relatable. But there’s also grief (her own and her parents), divorce, sexuality and abuse. I couldn't help but feel for Laurel as she both loved her sister May and constantly compared herself to her -- usually finding herself lacking the light and beauty she saw in May. I think that's what made her friendships, her letters and the romance so heartwarming, even when it was sad. Because Laurel was finding herself. She was living and coming to terms with her warring feelings for her sister and secrets she's kept quiet about for too long.

(Super minor) reservations: There was a point when the story/letters seemed to hit a lull. The author drags out the reveal of Laurel's darker secrets and I wish it had come up sooner because once it was out in the open, it packed such an emotional punch. It opened the doors to her own healing and communication with her parents. I wanted much more of that and we only got to see it in the last few chapters of the book. It was still very satisfying but like I said, I just wanted a little bit more.

Do I recommend?: Yes -- it's beautifully written and a unique way to tell a story. If you're at all interested by the premise, I recommend checking it out.

Happy reading!
Collaborative feature with Alexa! 

Who would you write a letter to?
Without a doubt, Audrey Hepburn. My friends know how much I adore this actress! I've seen 9 of her movies (and own about 5; my favorite is Two for the Road followed closely by Roman Holiday). I've always admired her classic style and the confident way she carried herself. Plus she was a humanitarian and pretty much beloved by everyone. I'm not sure what I'd say to her but she's definitely the person I'd write to. 

4 comments:

  1. Audrey Hepburn is definitely a classic beauty! I admire the way she carried herself in all the photos I've seen. I'm guilty of not having seen any of her films -- so perhaps you will have to host a movie marathon! :D Also, yes, Love Letters to the Dead was gorgeously written.

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  2. I've been looking forward to this book ever since a fellow blogger pointed it out. While I'm not sure I'll completely be a fan of the epistolary way of storytelling, I think I'll love the way the book deals with grief as well as it's reflection of real issues that are relatable.

    I love Audrey Hepburn! She's has such a classic sense of style and she really believed in the causes that she donated her time to.

    Also, I find it interesting that the Love Letters to the Dead cover font is similar to the font used in your blog. :)

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  3. I was a big fan of LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD. I thought the writing was beyond lovely–I was highlighting passages in my kindle all over the place–the characters were well-drawn and complex, and the emotions were at a fever pitch from beginning to end. Debuts don’t get much better than this, although I’d definitely say that it’s a book you probably have to be in the mood for. Sometimes the sadness and grief is something I can only handle at certain times. I’m very glad this was one of those times for me.

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  4. The author did a beautiful job using songs and poetry to help Laurel process her feelings. This is a great story. I would recommend it, maybe not right after you lose someone... It did bring it a lot of sad feelings and grief from the last four years of family members that I've lost.

    Marlene
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