It all starts when Laurel gets an assignment in English to write a letter to a dead person at the beginning of her first year in high school. She chooses Kurt Cobain for two reasons. He was her sister May’s favorite and like May, Kurt Cobain died young. But Laurel has trouble handing in her assignment when it’s done and instead of doing that she starts writing more letters to dead people, such as Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger and Amy Winehouse. Her first year in high school is tough, not only because she now lives part-time with her dad and her aunt and not only because she just started a whole new school where she knows no one, but mostly because May died not even half a year earlier. To cope with all of this Laurel writes her letters about everything that happens to her all the while trying to find her voice and her place in the world.
Like I said at the start of my review, there are some books that goes against the stream. Love Letters to the Dead are, unsurprisingly, a collection of all the letters Laurel writes and it’s through them that we get to take part of her story. Life for Laurel isn’t easy, not since her parents split up two years ago and May went off to high school and left Laurel behind and when May died everything around Laurel came crashing down. Her mom moves to California to deal with her grief there while Laurel is left living alternate weeks with her dad and her aunt, attending a new school and trying to find new friends who knows nothing about her sister and dealing with the fact that May is gone for good.
I thought it was a very intense story in its way, about a young girl who is seeking to find her place in the world but ending up trying to be her sister instead. It’s not just a story about dealing with losing someone close to you, although that is a major part, but it’s about finding your voice and who you are. I believe that this novel has a lot to offer to people in Laurel’s age and I do hope they can take comfort in Laurel’s adventures and her feelings.
Maybe I was a little old for this story but I still found quite a few things that I liked. It’s a very diverse book in my opinion, about broken families and the tough time during teenage years, first loves, how to deal with grief and guilt, abusive relationships as well as homosexuality. I liked that this novel had so much to offer, it felt like anyone could get something out of it and that's the mark of a really good book. The bigger portion of the main characters all came from broken homes with divorced parents, mother or fathers that left or died or had mental illnesses. Everyone had their own problems, one way or the other and most of the main characters needed to step up and act as the grown up and take responsibilities they shouldn’t need to take.
Besides Laurel and May we meet Laurel’s love interest Sky and her friends Natalie, Hanna, Kristen and Tristan. They vary in age but all attend high school and form a strong bond. I liked the love story between Laurel and Sky, who seemed to be the one Laurel could really lean on and help her through her difficult times. I also enjoyed reading about the struggling relationship between Natalie and Hanna which focused a lot on the hardship of love between two girls in a high school where everyone watched and judged them. Tristan and Kristen, while being a relatively big part of the story, was a little harder to connect to but still brought something to the table.
While reading I was reminded of Stephen Chbosky The Perks of being a Wallflower. They’re both stories told through letters and they both tell stories about similar main characters, struggling with dealing with grief, starting high school, meeting new friends and all that comes with it. If anything I think this might be the female version of Chbosky’s novel although having read both I have to say that I actually liked Love Letters to the Dead better. If that's because I'm female or just because I found Dellaira’s story better I don't know.
I have a hard time breaking this novel down in parts and analyzing it the way I usually do, perhaps, I think, because the overall message in Love Letters to the Dead is so strong and so bright that it eclipse everything else. I think it’s a really beautiful story about finding yourself in the midst of all this chaos that is life. I really think anyone would get something out of reading this book and therefor recommend it to all, no matter your age or gender or usual preferences when it comes to books. I believe this is a novel that is bigger than most books, one that will make you see life, and yourself, in a new way.
In my opinion, most books are the same and by that I mean, they’re built the same. They all tell a story through chapters and the reader is usually seeing everything unfold through the main character’s eyes. But sometimes a book will stick out from the rest and I think that’s what Ava Dellaira’s Love Letters to the Dead did.