Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Title: Love Letters to the Dead
Author: Ava Dellaira
Publication Date: April 1st, 2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, Giroux
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 327
ISBN: 0374346674
Source: The Library

Synopsis (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. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven't forgiven?

It's not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally 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 truly start to discover her own path.

In a voice that's as lyrical and as true as a favorite song, Ava Dellaira writes about one girl's journey through life's challenges with a haunting and often heartbreaking beauty.

Ava Dellaira is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a Truman Capote Fellow. She grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago. She believes this book began when she bought her second album ever—Nirvana’s In Utero—which she listened to on repeat while filling the pages of her journal. She currently lives in Santa Monica, California, where she works in the film industry and is writing her second novel. 

Love Letters to the Dead is the story of Laurel, learning to deal after her sister's death and getting mixed in all sorts of teenagery shenanigans. I've had my eye on this book for a while, and finally decided to bring it home from the library. The premise sounded like it could be hit or miss...but it ended up landing somewhere in the middle. If you're looking for a realistic young adult fiction, you will probably love it or you'll hate it.

The book itself is written in a compilation of Laurel's letters. What I liked was traveling through the process of Laurel's grief and the realistic family dysfunction to go with it. I liked the tragedy, the messy romance, the dramatic friendships, and the almost hopeful tone near the end. The events that moved the plot were entertaining, and I found myself sympathizing with Laurel. I liked how the author left the reader to ask questions throughout the book: How did Sky know May? How did May die? Was it suicide or an accident? What happened to Laurel that made her feel so guilty? All of these elements allowed me to enjoy a great deal of this book.

However, there were a lot of things I thought were really weak. Like the fact that Laurel was in High School, yet she talked like she was 10...but then would suddenly be talking about every single detail of everything around her; the smells, texture, lighting, feeling, memories, etc. etc. etc. It was inconsistent and way too fluffy. I ended up skipping over some of the paragraphs dripping with detail because I just didn't really care. The picture was being overpainted.

I'm not sure if it's because my copy of the book may have had some misprints, but I felt like she repeated the same Judy Garland letter at least 3 times. Also, if she turned all those letters into her teacher she probably would have gotten herself and her classmates in a lot of trouble. And her teacher would have seen what she wrote about her, too. So giving ALL of the letters to her is a fairly huge inconsistency that kind of shattered the enchantment of the book.

Sadly, this book fell short of my expectations. The conflicting impression it has left makes it difficult to rate, so I've decided to keep it right in the middle. I liked it, I'm glad I read it, but it could definitely be better. I would recommend reading the book and deciding for yourself whether you like it or not. 

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