Love letters to the dead
Author: Ava Dellaira
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Sometimes the best letters go unanswered.
It begins as an assignment for English class: write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain- died young, and so did Laurel’s sister May- so maybe he’ll understand what Laurel is going through.
Soon Laurel is writing letters to lots of dead people- Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, River Phoenix, Amelia Earhart, Amy Winehouse… It’s like she can’t stop. She writes about her new high school, her new friends, her first love- and her shattered life.
But the ghosts of Laurel’s past can’t be contained between the lines of a page forever. She must face up to them- before they consume her.
Plot: Love Letters to the Dead is an intriguing story about a young girl called Laurel and her journey of dealing with her older sister May’s sudden death. The book starts off with a letter to Kurt Cobain which outlines why she starts writing letters to people who have passed away. Each letter is written to a certain dead person and what that letter contains is normally written to that person because it is related to them in some way.
Laurel’s whole life changed the minute her sister died. Since then she feels that everyone blames her for what happened, as she was the only one there, and that anything that happens to her or her friends is also because of her. Laurel is now starting at a new school where no one knows her or her sister or what happened to her. Soon she has made some new friends and is starting to work out who she is and where she belongs in the world.
But Laurel is hiding something big from everyone, including herself. Slowly throughout the book we learn what has happened to her and what happened the night she was killed before Laurel finally writes her last letter, to May.
My thoughts: SPOILER ALERT
I hate to admit it but I really struggled with this book and I don’t know why. I love the letter style writing in books and they normally hook me in straight away, but for some reason Love Letters to the Dead didn’t. I couldn’t seem to get into the storyline at all and had I not wanted to find out what happened to May I properly wouldn’t have finished the book, which I really hate doing.
The author did an amazing job of portraying someone who had been molested and also someone who was dealing with the guilt of seeing her sister die. In this case Laurel’s brain blocked it all out so that she wouldn’t have to deal with what happened until she was ready to and we see her slowly start to accept what was going on towards the end of the book. She also keeps little mementos of things from when such things happened, like the frog clip.
But I did love how each letter was written to that certain person because Laurel believed that what was contained in the letter was relevant to that person. For example:
‘ Dear Kurt
In the second sentence of your suicide not you said it would be pretty easy to understand. It is and it isn’t. I mean, I get how it goes, what the story is and how it ends. Becoming a star didn’t make you happy. It didn’t make you invincible. You were still vulnerable, furious at everything and in love with it at once. The world was too much for you. People were too close to you. You said it in one sentence I can’t get out of my head: I simply love people…so much that it me feel too fu**ing sad. Yes, I understand.’
I feel it, too, when I see Aunt Amy rewinding the answering machine, playing a Jesus-man message from months ago as if it were new. When I see Hannah running over in her new dress to meet Kasey, all the while looking over her shoulder at Natalie. When I see Tristan, playing air guitar to one of your songs, when what he wants it to write his own. When I see Dad, coming over to kiss my head before bed, too tired to worry about where I go at night. When I see the boy in Bio who fills the always-empty seat beside him with a stack of books. Everything gets in. I can’t stop them.’
Favourite character: of course my favourite character is the main character who the whole book is based around, Laurel. Throughout the book she is slowly changing from the person she always had been before May died to the person she has always wanted to be. She has gone through so much pain and suffering and has struggled throughout it all silently for so long that it gave me great enjoyment to see her finally accept that she needed to tell someone what was going on.
Favourite part: My favourite part was when she was writing the letter to Heath Ledger as he was a fellow Australian.