Monday, November 17, 2014

Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Title: Love Letters to the Dead
Author: Ava Dellaira
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: Five Mile Press

It begins as an assignment for English class: write a letter to a dead person - any dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain - he died young, and so did Laurel's sister May - so maybe he'll understand a bit of what Laurel is going through. Soon Laurel is writing letters to lots of dead people - Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, River Phoenix, Amelia Earhart... it's like she can't stop. And she'd certainly never dream of handing them in to her teacher. She writes about what it's like going to a new high school, meeting new friends, falling in love for the first time - and how her family has shattered since May died.

But much as Laurel might find writing the letters cathartic, she can't keep real life out forever. The ghosts of her past won't be contained between the lines of a page, and she will have to come to terms with growing up, the agony of losing a beloved sister, and the realisation that only you can shape your destiny. A lyrical, haunting and stunning debut from the protégé of Stephen Chbosky.
Review by Nara

So, maybe this is silly, but it kind of bugged me that the letters weren't really love letters. Talk about a misleading title... The letters were really more like diary entries, except that Laurel wrote "Dear Kurt Cobain" or "Dear Amy Winehouse" rather than "Dear Diary". Also, is it sad that I knew hardly any of the people the letters were directed at? My knowledge of pop culture is pretty abysmal, not gonna lie.

Anyway, moving on to other aspects of the book, I must admit that pace is quite slow. Especially in the beginning, where Laurel is coming to terms with living without May and her mother, and starting at a new school. However, I feel like this languid pace actually suits the tone of the book, and the coming of age story that is being told. Change is slow, and that's well reflected in the development of Laurel's character.

It's not all sunshine and rainbows, as you would expect in a book titled Love Letters to the Dead. There are definitely some darker undertones, which are hinted at slightly at first, but really begin to emerge around halfway through the book. At this point, the pace does remain pretty slow, but the book becomes a lot more engaging as you begin to speculate what exactly happened on the night of May's death.
When we are in love, we are both completely in danger and completely saved.
The writing is just stunning. I think at least 3 of the stars I've given this book are for the writing. Some scenes were almost physically painful to read about, they were so poignant and beautifully written. Honestly, if you're looking for a contemporary with prose to die for, then this book is perfect.

There were definitely some aspects of Sky's (the love interest's) past which felt a bit iffy (I won't go into them because spoilers), but on the whole, the romance was quite well developed. It was perhaps a bit fast at the start, but that wasn't such a big issue overall. At times, I can't deny that it was frustrating, because of both Sky and Laurel's actions, but it's later justified well enough that you can forgive them for it in the end.

A poignant coming of age story about a girl who is insecure and broken, but truly relateable nonetheless, Love Letters to the Dead is a contemporary that will stay with you for a long time.

Really liked it

Overall: 8/10
Plot: 4/5
Romance: 3/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 4/5