Title: Love Letters to the Dead (April 2014)
Author: Ava Dellaira (U.S)
Age Group in Store: 14+
It’s briefly about: Laurel is given an assignment in English class: write a letter to a dead person. She initially chose to write to Kurt Cobain, because he was her sister May’s favourite musician, and, like May, he died young. Laurel chooses to write to him instead of her sister, as the tragic accident that took her life only happened several months before, and Laurel was trying to start a new life at a new school where no one would ask her questions about her past. Laurel decides to stretch the assignment to become her own personal journal, where she writes to many different dead people: River Phoenix, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, Judy Garland, Elizabeth Bishop, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin to name a few. In writing her thoughts out on paper, she searches for a way to privately deal with the death of her sister, how she feels responsible for it and the further shattering and splintering of her once idyllic family. No matter how hard she tries though, a new school, new look, new boy, new friends and masking pain with illegal substances only delays the escape of the inevitable truths bubbling below the surface. Laurel's writing forces her to begin to finally recognize all parts of her sister, the good and the complicated, and come to terms with her own personal skeletons.
Michelle's rave: Gosh I loved this book! I couldn’t put it down. Yes, I cried on the subway - several times. Love Letters to the Dead was so poignant, so poetic, so raw. The way Laurel described her feelings and experiences were mature and had depth, but still felt like the authentic thoughts of a teenager, not an adult pretending to be one. This novel ebbed and flowed beautifully, there were no irrelevant parts and Laurel’s story just broke my heart. She also managed to find other broken or tender souls to become her comrades post-tragedy and they all desperately needed each other. The primary characters were all three-dimensional and touched me deeply. As a teacher, and an adult, pieces of this story made me super uncomfortable, i.e. the amount of teenage alcohol consumption, hyper-sexuality of underage girls, sneaking out at night and skipping school etc. but maybe that’s because I know that many teenagers do that stuff and it makes me sad. Regardless, the reasons most of these characters turned to outside influences was to soften the blow that life was dealing them, whether it be loss, abuse, school pressures, family pressures, questions about sexuality. Ultimately, it was understandable.
Perfect for: Fans of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield, The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour, Looking for Alaska by John Green
Number of Stars: *****