Love Letters to the Dead
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!