Monday, March 17, 2014

Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

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Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Love Letters to the Dead
Ava Dellaira
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Publication date: April 1st 2014
by Farrar Straus and Giroux (BYR)

t 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.
-A copy was provided by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for review-

There’s always some nervousness in a reader when they finally begin to read a book that they have been highly anticipating. I had that nervousness going into Love Letters To The Dead, I mean any book that mentions Kurt Cobain is exciting to me because he is in my top 5 favourite artists of all time. After reading the novel I think that the nervousness was warranted because I did struggle through much of it, but in the end everything that I waded through paid off in a huge way.

Love Letters to the Dead is told as a series of letters that Laurel writes to dead celebrities. This starts out as an English assignment and she kind of just keeps going with it. She starts off writing to Cobain and moves on to people that she learns about in school, or actors/singers that she hears of from friends. I read Matthew Quick’s THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW recently which is told as a series of letters that are written from the MC to Richard Gere, so naturally there were comparisons running rampant in my head. One thing I have to say is that I didn’t find that Love Letters flowed as well as Quick’s novel. The letters here started out with Laurel talking about an aspect of the recipients life and it always came full circle and tied into her life really well but I found myself bored with the details of the celebrity and I just wanted the story to move forward. I felt that for the first (nearly) 200 pages of the novel we weren’t moving forward at all, it just felt stagnant and I longed for things to get going. Once I passed the 200 page mark things did begin rolling in a fast way and the boring details from the beginning of the story started to click into place and make sense, so in the end I think it was definitely worth sticking with this one.

Another thing that I found difficult with this one was getting a read on our MC, Laurel. Much of what I saw of her personality in the beginning of the novel seemed to contradict other things I had learned about her. I didn’t feel like I could figure out who she was at all and that really kept me from connecting with her. But once again, as the story came to a close and everything was brought to light things started to click and I felt like I really understood her. While I didn’t get Laurel as well as I would have liked to I did love her friends Natalie and Hannah. Their story is initially what kept me going with this one because I just had to know where they would end up. They are clearly very in love for the entirety of the novel but are struggling with accepting their relationship and bringing it into the light where other people can see it. They are both wonderfully quirky and flawed characters that I came to like almost immediately.

While the road to the end was a rocky one for me the ending paid off big time. I felt heartbroken and emotionally drained upon finishing, I just wish that the pacing felt more consistent while reading it. I do think this is a must read for any gritty contemporary fan, even though this probably seems like a rather negative review. I wish I could talk about what turned this one around for me, but unfortunately that would be a spoiler and would just ruin the novel for anyone with plans to read it, so with that I think I am done here!

3.5 Stars
3.5 Hot Espressos

31 Responses to “Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira”

  1. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    I’m sorry to hear this didn’t completely work for you, Jenni. While the idea behind the book is interesting, I wasn’t really interested in reading it in the first place. I think your review just solidified my decision. I tend to struggle with books when the pacing is off too, so I can tell I’d probably be as bored as you were at times. I’m glad that the end was good though.
    Lovely honest review!
    Nick @ Nick’s Book Blog recently posted…Review : The Winner’s Curse by Marie RutkoskiMy Profile

  2. Christianna

    I’ve been looking forward to this one too! I love that it seems to be so music inspired, which makes it a must read for me. It’s a bummer that it’s a little slow in the beginning, but I like biographies, so the focus on the celebs might work a bit more for me. Thanks for the awesome review. It has me really curious about what made you end up liking this one in the end!
    Christianna recently posted…[Review: The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman]My Profile

  3. Lauren

    I’m about to read this one, and I’m excited and also a little nervous because the reviews have been all over the place. I think it’s a shame you couldn’t connect with Laurel more, and that the letters didn’t quite flow as well as you would have liked. I will try to go into this with an open mind and adjusted expectations. Glad you still enjoyed it and recommend it despite your reservations. Lovely review!
    Lauren recently posted…Book Review: Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2) by Laini TaylorMy Profile

  4. Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain

    Yay I’m really glad that this one ended up getting better by the second half! I’ve been seeing many compare this to Matthew Quick’s book so I can definitely see the pressure on this book to be as good as his. I’m sorry it was hard to relate to Laurel completely, but it’s great that the ending packed a punch. I definitely know what you mean; sometimes with certain books I feel neutral towards it in general but then the ending is kind of like a huge punch in the gut. Fantastic review, Jenni! <33
    Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain recently posted…My Life After Now by Jessica VerdiMy Profile

  5. Cait @ Notebook Sisters

    Oooh, I can’t WAIT to read this one. It’s always freaking going into a highly anticipated read, I reckon. 😉 I was SO nervous to start These Broken Stars, because I’d drooled over it for sooo long. But I loved it. 😉 I like the ideas of letters…but I don’t like the idea of not connecting to the narrator. That sucks.
    Cait @ Notebook Sisters recently posted…Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy (Also: I write an incredibly cryptic review)My Profile

  6. Faye @ The Social Potato

    I think despite your worries, you made this one sound appetizing, Jenni! A thoughtful, insightful review layout out what the expect is always a plus! My co-blogger reviewed this not too long ago and it made her think about death a lot, to the point of e-mailing me her feels (yes, I’m looking at you, Rashika haha). I’m sorry you didn’t connect much to the character 🙁 That’s always a big blow if the story relies heavily on the emotional connection. At least you enjoyed it enough to give it a 3.5! 😀
    Faye @ The Social Potato recently posted…ARC Review: Sea of Shadows by Kelley ArmstrongMy Profile

  7. czai

    glad it worked out for you in the end. I’m actually anticipating for this book as well.. now knowing that its pacing is somehow poor yet somewhat nicely laid down at the end, that kind of gives me a heads up on what to expect once I get my hands on this..
    czai recently posted…[Live-Action] Bokura ga Ita ZenpenMy Profile