Book Name: Love letters to the dead
Author: Ava Dellaira
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
My Rating: 4 out of 5
Format: Hard-cover checked out from the local library
Book blurb: 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 words: This is another book in letter format in which the story is narrated by the letter writer through letters. Only in this case, the letters are addressed to dead people, as the name suggests, mostly celebrities from the music world or Hollywood personalities. I had mixed feelings while reading this book. Sometimes it felt too puerile and dramatic while at other times, the raw honesty hinting at the reality of the characters and the situation tugged at my heart to read further.
The book kicks off with Laurel, the narrator and central character, writing a letter to Kurt Cobain for an English assignment where they are to write letters to the
dead. She doesn’t turn in the letter and instead continues to write to well-known personalities who all died young; telling Amy Winehouse of her heartache over her
dead sister May, to Judy Garland about her disconsolate father and her mother who deserted them. She tells River Phoenix of Sky, the boy made of fluttering moths
inside him; writes to Janis Joplin about Aunt Amy’s Jesus and her unrequitted love; tells Amelia Earheart of friends who are in love with each other but can’t be
together and friends who are together and in-love but will eventually be apart. I think I am one of the few ignorant people who is not acclimatised with american music
world and its celebrities. So I had to google each of the characters to learn their stories and their connection to this book. I had fun knowing their life stories (not fun in knowing about their deaths!).
The story in this book speaks real. I love the way Laurel describes things, like the way she feels connected to the music of dead singers, or the performances of dead actors. All the time she is writing letters to dead people in her journal talking about her life. She slowly begins to talk about what happened to her sister and her in the letters. Her sister’s death has tore her family apart and Laurel has to learn to talk to them as well. The letters help her do so. You get to see Laurel in her every day life but the journal entries are a great touch.
It may seem morbid and melancholy at times, but Ava knows how to draw you in and connect you to the very heart of the matter. For me, I think it was the sad fact that Laurel couldn’t stop blaming herself for her sister’s death and forgiveness doesn’t come easily to her regarding herself or her mom. The book brings to surface the fact that in life there are few riddles that you cannot solve and you cannot lose yourselves into. At some point in time you have rise above them, and move on with your life. A broken family breaks each of the family members. How you cope with the circumstances and build yourselves back is the real challenge, and not losing yourselves in the hurricane of the breakage. Ava spells this message by showing how Laurel’s family breaks, the effects of the separation on each of them and subsequently how they get themselves back, albeit after losing a part of themselves with May. It is quite a heavy read and Ava covers some serious teen issues too, like underage drinking, molestation, drugs, smoking which are very real in today’s society. It tells a tale of loss and how to deal with it. It deals with how we sometimes build people up to be these perfect untouchable things in our minds and don’t want to believe that they aren’t that perfect because they become our rocks. It tells a story about learning to accept yourself and it’s a tale about forgiveness.
The writing is gorgeous and full of emotion. Ava develops a very real entourage of secondary characters. From Hannah to Natalie to Kristen to Tristan to Sky, you cannot help but understand, accept and love each of them. There is so much depth to all of these characters and all of them break your heart in some capacity. It’s a coming of age story and we join Laurel in her journey which at times seems naive and puerile.
This book is touching. I do know the feeling of perdition due to loss and the guilt surrounding it, but the grief in this book is so profound that I know I don’t want to know. Having said that, I would still have loved to read the letter that Laurel would have written to May. It’s a 4 out of 5.