Monday, March 17, 2014

Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

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I received this book for free from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava DellairaLove Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux (BYR) on April 1st 2014
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Source: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
Buy on Amazon

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.

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 Hot Espressos

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

  1. Pili

    I’m gonna be checking out this one for sure! I got the first 5 chapters for free and that gave me an idea of what to expect from it and I think I’ll like it, and even if I struggle at first, I know everything makes sense in the end, thank to your review Jenni!

    • Jenni

      Yes! Everything does come together in the end, and I mean the beginning isn’t terrible but I just kept getting jolted out of the story.

  2. 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!

    • Jenni

      Yeah, if you have issues with pacing this one might not work for you. The idea is interesting and so is the way it was told I just wish it felt a little more cohesive to me.

  3. JennRenee

    I have been really curious about this book. I have found that books written in a different way can sometimes be difficult or really awesome. I think I may like this one but I am worried that the beginning is a bit slow. great review.

    • Jenni

      Yeah, ones told completely differently can either be really great or fall flat. I would say this one is somewhere in the middle LOL

  4. kimbacaffeinate

    I have gone back and forth and hovered over the order button on this, and while aspects of it intrigue me, I kind of feel like this will be at best an ok read for me. Great review Jenni, I appreciate your honest thoughts on it.

    • Jenni

      That’s where this one fell for me, just OK and it makes me sad because I had expected so much more from it. Oh well, you win some you lose some, right?

  5. Tina

    Wooo totally down to read this! Also super curious what turned it around for you and wondering if I’ll be able to spot it myself! Great review 🙂

    • Jenni

      Once you find out why Laurel is the way she is and what happened with her sister the pace really picks up. I hope you enjoy it, Tina!

  6. 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!

    • Jenni

      Yeah the Kurt Cobain stuff was really cool and I mean there is Janis Joplin too and then mostly actors. There is a big focus on music though, which kind of made the book feel like it was in the wrong time period but it was great nonetheless.

  7. 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!

    • Jenni

      I hope you fare better with it Lauren! It does turn out to be a really good read once everything starts to be clear to the reader I just wish the journey there was a bit smoother.

  8. 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

    • Jenni

      Yeah, reading it so soon after Quick’s novel had the comparisons running rampant in my head because I loved The Good Luck of Right Now. I still wonder if maybe the comparisons being so fresh in my mind hindered my enjoyment of this one a bit.

  9. 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.

  10. Amy @ The Reading Realm

    I’ve been unsure and a little nervous about reading this book too. The blurb sounds so amazing, but I wasn’t sure if I’d like the letter format. But it does still sound like such an interesting idea for a story. Slow beginnings frustrate me too, but the mysterious redeeming event has me all curious now!!

  11. 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! 😀

  12. 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..

  13. Amy @ Book Loving Mom

    I am starting this one this weekend!! I can’t wait after reading your review. I too am a huge Nirvana and Kurt Cobain fan, so I had been super excited for this book. I am glad that even though it has some rough patches, that it all wraps up well. Fab review chick!!