Thursday, July 3, 2014

Book Review: "Love Letters to the Dead" by Ava Dellaira

It starts as an assignment for English class - write a letter to a dead person, and Laurel decides to write to Kurt Cobain.  She finds that she likes it, writing letters to someone who couldn't possibly write back, and she writes more...  some to Amy Winehouse, River Phoenix, Judy Garland, and others - even the guy who was the voice for Mr. Ed the Talking Horse on the old TV show.  Through her letters, we see Laurel - grieving for her sister who recently passed away, grieving for her mother who ran away to California.  She's also grieving for herself and the secrets she keeps.  But she's also making friends at the new school, and develops a crush on the mysterious boy...   but she can't talk about what happened the night her sister died.  She can barely even write about it...  but one night things spiral way out of control and she can't hide anymore.

I really wasn't sure what to expect here - I had no idea of the underlying issues that were beneath the surface, and I'm kind of glad for that.  But this is an interesting way to get to know a character - through the letters she writes to other people.  Her voice and tone changes significantly as you move through the story and I liked seeing her evolve in that way.  I mean, she is pretty unbalanced through much of the book (and with good reason...  though holy hysterical dramatics Batman) but this is a story of her trying to figure herself out.  I was worried about some teen readers not really knowing some of the intended recipients of these letters.... and lets face it, they are some pretty unusual choices of dead people.  She did try to make the connection within the letter to her own story so that it would make sense, but it was kind of a sidestep from the story and it made it a little awkward.  It took me at least the first 50 or 75 pages or so to really feel the character and, quite frankly, get over the boy's name because I hated it so much.  Such a superficial thing, but it really distracted me.  All said, this really wasn't all that I'd hoped it would be - especially since it was so nicely blurbed on the covers by Steven Chbosky and other authors I like.

*****
Love Letters to the Dead
by Ava Dellaira
Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2014
323 pages
Source:  Library
*****

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1 comment:

Hanna Whitehead said...

Oh, this is an interesting concept. I think I'd be more interesting in the dead people that she was writing to than her boy drama, which probably defeats the object somewhat!

I know what you mean though - I struggle when a character's name annoys me too. I can never settle into the story because it 'clunks' in my head everytime I see the name.

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