Monday, March 24, 2014

Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira (ARC)

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR)
Release Date: April 1, 2014
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 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 beautiful, harrowing, deep, thought-provoking read"

Disclaimer: I received an eGalley from NetGalley. This did not affect my review in any way, nor was I compensated for this review.

This book started off slowly. Very slowly. Yes, there was a lot that had to be set up and explained. But I felt like it was dragging on and on, but I'm glad I pushed past it because it picked up afterward. Don't get me wrong; this is generally not an action-driven book but rather a very character-driven book. Some people might not like that, but I do. I enjoy seeing how character evolve, learn, change, etc, and I love seeing how relationships of all types form and change as well.

Dellaira did a very good job of exploring different issues, including death, abuse, insecurity, self-blame, sexuality, and others that I won't list because it's a bit spoiler-y. They were all explored well, and well executed. Each one added an important piece to the overall puzzle, and I loved seeing how it came together at the end. This was really moving, inspiring, and impactful.

The characters were well-developed, and they were, without a doubt, extremely complex. Both Laurel and the secondary characters were flawed, but they also all had something great about them that made them special and unique. They all had dreams and aspirations. They all made mistakes. They all learned and grew as the story progressed.

In terms of predictability, there were some extremely predictable parts, but there were also many times when I wasn't expecting something. The big reveal about what happened to Laurel was pretty obvious to me fairly early on. Maybe that was the point. *shrug* Overall, I don't know that the predictability hindered my enjoyment of the book, but it did take away from some key scenes and emotional hits.

Lastly, I kind of enjoyed the format of the book (in letter form). While it did restrict the writing a bit, I found it to be interesting to see which people Laurel wrote to about different events. I feel as if I would have enjoyed the letters and the format more if I knew most of the dead people used, but it was still interesting nonetheless. Additionally, I was on the verge of entering a reading slump while I was in the middle of this book, and I think it was the format that saved me. It was nice to read something different.

I lied. One last thing. This book is filled with ALL THE FEELS. I almost cried in a couple of scenes. But it's so worth the read. A beautiful, harrowing, deep, thought-provoking read, I'd definitely recommend this.

Love Letters to the Dead: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository

Ava Dellaira: Website | Facebook | Twitter 


  1. We're review twins today. :) The beginning was so slow for me I almost DNF'd and unlike you, I had NO CLUE what the 'big reveal' was. If someone hadn't told me there was more to it I probably would have just figured she was just super hung up on her sisters death. This was also a bit TOO dark for me. It brought back a lot of stuff from high school that I didn't want to really relive. However, I also think that's important. I think that as an adult this was harder to read and if I was a teen I may have liked the darkness more. I did still rate it 3.5 stars on my blog but haven't decided if it's a 3 or 4 star for amazon and goodreads. It was a tough one, I'm not sure how I really feel about it. I'm glad you enjoyed it a lot because I was wanting to see a teenager's review and opinion.

    1. Ooo, yay! :) Same here; if it weren't for the fact that I had heard great things about the rest of the book, I probably would have DNF'd it. Hmmm, I wonder how predictable it was for others...

      Yes, I think that that may be part of it. But in general, I also like dark books if they're done well, and if they're about a topic or subject that is important to me or that I've been through.

      I was close to giving it a 3.5, but I think I ended up giving it a 4 because of my circumstances while I was reading the book and because it had such an emotional impact on me. Thank you! I'll be sure to check out your review.

  2. Great review Jessica and you explained the book well. I am glad it picked up, and the idea of seeing who she chooses to write to and why appeals to me.

    1. Thank you so much! I'm really glad you found my review helpful. I hope you'll enjoy the book when you get the chance to read it :)

  3. I have this one on my to-read list. Interesting that it is in letter form, I think that I would try it out just to see what it is like! + I am always up for a book that has different issues.
    Great review :-)


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