Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

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Hardcover, 327 pages

Published April 1st 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Source: Won in Giveaway

My Rating: 2 Stars

From Goodreads:

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.

I really, really had high hopes for this book. I wanted to love it, I did. I kind of love anything that gives me a good case of “The Feels”, so I was gearing up to have my tissues handy to read a lovely book about a bunch of deceased people. How could that not give me the feels, you know? Also, more superficially, the cover is beautiful. So there’s that. But alas, this book and I were not meant to be. I *almost* DNF. So, “what happened?” you ask? Basically, these things:
  •  Laurel. At first, I was really sympathetic, because she really comes from a pretty awful place. Not only is her sister dead, her family is in shambles, she’s left her friends behind, and is kind of a mess. How could you not feel for her? So at first, her behavior, while annoying, wasn’t altogether baffling. She’s bound to have some problems adjusting after what she’s been through. But at what point does she actually stand up and try to move forward? No, she chooses to grab some friends who like to get drunk and skip classes all day with some senior hippies. What?! Listen, I know I was a bit “square” in high school, but seriously? Does this happen? And I shouldn’t start on the insta-love, but I am going to, because it sucked. It made absolutely no sense. Was there a point to Sky’s existence? If so, maybe someone could fill me in, because I didn’t “get it”.  Ultimately, she sounded like she could be the author of my fifth grade journal, if I was writing it with a bottle of whiskey in hand and some Birkenstock-wearing degenerates hanging out in the corner. By the end, I flat out did not care at all what happened to Laurel or any of the rest of them. I kind of just plowed through for the sake of finishing.
  • The “letter” recipients. Just… why? What do these random collection of deceased people have to do with anything? Not to be heartless, but most of these people aren’t even really relevant, except that maybe May once liked their music, or one of the hippie twins talked about them once. And then throw in a rando like Amelia Earhart for funsies, and you have a regular Who’s Who of Quasi-Forgotten Dead People. It’ll be a sentence like “Wow, Kurt, May played your song one night when she was high as a kite, so yeah. Anyway, about my friends’ complicated high school drama and Sky’s uselessness…”
  • The plot. I just flat out didn’t feel it honestly. It was like, May died, the family was in shambles, her friends were a mess, so Laurel just kind of ended up being a follower and not really creating much of her own path. I just felt that Laurel did not have her own voice, and she was looking to these people to create one for her. She worshipped May, she followed her friends around like a lost puppy, latched onto Sky at the first sign of interest, and so on. And absolutely no one’s parents/guardians were involved. At all. This whole damn town was a mess.Yes, it was very sad, because a lot of awful stuff happened to this girl, but it was more like “wow, this chick is a mess” than anything. I won’t go into any more detail, because I don’t want to spoil anything, but it just didn’t work for me.
So, were there redeeming points? Sure, this is a two-star, after all! I found it very sweet the way that Laurel was so fond of May. I rather enjoyed Natalie, even though Hannah made me angry on the regular, and I even liked Kristen of the Hippie Twins. And it was a truly upsetting story, and I think that the author took some risks with some of the topics, which I appreciated. But overall, the things I did like just couldn’t make up for the glaring problems I had with it.
Dear King Tut, I didn’t care for this one. Love, Shannon.

Posted June 20, 2014 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Review / 0 Comments


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