Author: Ava Dellaira
Synopsis: 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.
Huge thank you to Macmillian and Netgalley for this advance reader’s copy.
You can tell that Ava Dellaira is a protege of Stephen Chbosky with her debut novel Love Letters to the Dead. There’s something about the nature intimate of Laurel, her desire to reach out to those who have already passed, and her need to find comfort in someone or something that may or may not be listening to her.
This book is beautifully written and has moments that are clever and sweet. It’s also a messy gut puncher when it wants to be as well. Laurel’s voice was so easy to fall into, you wanted to know more about her pain and why she was reaching out to the unknown. She wanted someone to understand how she feels about losing her sister, lacking direction, and just trying to cope overall.
Everything about this story worked for me, even the romance between Laurel and Sky, though at times I found myself so frustrated with their lack of communication. However, even with those feelings, it made sense why the two often behaved the way they did and never fully saw eye-to-eye. The ending though was sweet and I did find myself rooting for them, even when I was mad at them.
There’s just something about the style that resonated with me. Perhaps it was the fact that its told entirely in letters, or its the fact that its on a topic I understand very well. I found myself nodding along with Laurel’s feelings of displacement and grief — they felt so natural and I appreciated that approach. I think I would have been more disappointed had it come across very forced.
There’s a lot to like about Love Letters to the Dead, though it’s definitely a difficult read that you need to be in the right frame of mind for. It can be dark, but often you’ll find yourself humming along to the songs many of the dead artists had written, and often reminds us just how hard death can really hit us and how we have to adapt when we lose someone. Loved, loved, loved this one.