Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Love Letters To The Dead by Ava Dellaira

Love Letters To The Dead by Ava Dellaira
Release Date - April 1, 2014
Publisher Website - Raincoast Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 323 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received from publisher in exchange for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads 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. 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.
Dear Ava Dellaria,

I am going to do this review a little differently than I normally do. I don't think you'll mind. See, I was inspired by the use of letters in Love Letters To The Dead, and I thought it would be a fantastic way to showcase one of the elements I loved about your book.

I'll start with a compliment. Everyone likes those right? I love your writing. Your prose is beautiful, and lyrical. Mesmerizingly so at times. You created a voice, and a character using letters, and still managed to convey so many emotions within them.

I kind of knew going in that your book was going to be a sad one. I even made a joke on twitter about the level of crying it would most likely produce (sobbing to full on ugly crying). As sad and emotional as Laurel's story is, it's also really hopeful. Grief is something excruciating to work through, but your novel had little moments of happiness that Laurel tried to grasp. As Laurel worked through everything, I came to want more of those happy moments for her. I hope, however her story continues, that she keeps finding them.

I am someone who can remember exactly where I was when I found out River Phoenix had died. I was 12, I had just watched Stand By Me, and like May was instantly smitten. I was told just a few short months later, by my older sister, that he had died. It was the day after Halloween. It stunned me. This part of the novel could have been me talking....
And then we saw that you had died. Of a drug overdose. You were only twenty-three. It was like the world stopped. You’d been just right there, almost in the room with us. But you were no longer on this earth.

When I think back to it, that night seemed like the beginning when everything changed. Maybe we didn't have the words for it then, but when we found out you’d died, it’s like the first time we saw what could happen to innocence.
You captured with these words the exact feeling I had upon hearing the news. It's even more evident after watching Stand By Me a second time (or in my case a 100th time). After hearing of his death those final moments of Chris Chambers' story are tainted in a way. You can't help but think of what happened just a few years later. Your words managed to say that, and so much more. It sort of felt like you might have felt that way too.

That's the thing, all these people Laurel writes letters to, I think they must have touched you as well. They became characters in your story in their own right. Because of this, I think they inspired you, and their stories stayed with you. It comes across in the care, and heartfelt way you entwine their stories into Laurel's narrative. The haunting way you have her break apart Kurt Cobin's suicide note, and the aforementioned River Phoenix section that stayed with me long after I finished reading. You captured both the allure these people had, and at the same time the tragic sorrow at how short some of their lives were. You captured why they linger still, and fascinate us, in some cases, long after their deaths.

We only get Laurel's perspective, and that makes sense, it is her story after all. However, some of the characters still linger with me. Hannah and Natalie especially. I wonder if they are okay, and while reading I found myself wanting to get inside their head. I wanted to know more about them. Even through Laurel's voice I came to care about them. It impressed me that you managed to create secondary characters that I ended up caring so much about using this format. It's something I worried about before starting your novel, and happily, I need not have.

May is a force that is larger than the novel's pages. She comes to life through Laurel's love for her. As we begin to unravel the mystery of what happened the night she died, my heart sank. Your writing captured not just Laurel's emotions, but what May must have felt in those pivotal moments. I felt like I got to know May just as well as I did Laurel, even it was just only Laurel's version of her. This broken, beautiful girl who maybe had more secrets than Laurel could ever know.

At the end of all this, basically what I am saying is thank you. Thank you for giving me a book that left me feeling everything I felt while reading Perks of Being a Wallflower. Thank you for Laurel, and her heart crushingly beautiful story. I can't wait to read what you write next.




  1. I think that this is the most beautiful review I have ever read. You put into words all of the thoughts that were floating around in my head but that I couldn't properly compose. Thank you! This book is my favorite book so far of 2013 and this is definitely a review I will be sharing.


  2. My review of this book is going up next week but it definitely echoes a lot of what you've said here. This was a really emotional book but you're right it was very hopeful as well. And I love that you wrote the review in the form of a letter!


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