Title: Love Letters To The Dead
Author: Ava Dellaira
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Publication: April 1, 2014
Synopsis: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.
The synopsis of this work truly fascinated me and I was anxious to begin reading, there were quite a few points throughout where I saw a glimpse of the emotion and meaning that I was expecting to find throughout. Sadly, those few breakthrough moments were not enough to balance out the pages and pages of no-movement journal writing. I couldn't help but feel that the book was much longer than necessary to convey the intended message and this feeling created a tediousness that I couldn't shake.
I did appreciate the presentation of "second chances". I also appreciated the "history lessons" regarding the famous people Laurel was writing to. There were certainly a few moments where everything gelled together well and made sense. Even a goosebump or two, especially at the end during reconciliation.
The young main character, Laurel, is struggling with a secret. A few, actually. Not only that but she's also carrying around some serious guilt regarding things that weren't even her fault to begin with. I understand the attempt to convey an idea of struggling youth, of the necessity of identity and friendship and family, but the achingly thorough and sometimes boring detail with which the author portrays this young girl's life through her journal almost outweighs those moments of clarity, of profound thought and meaning.
Truly, though, I couldn't decide if this book was meant to be a warning, a piece of encouragement, a confession, or a story of strength. I don't feel like the main character gained much strength throughout her ordeal and the people and things that brought her to her own realizations were crutches such as alcohol abuse, an intense romantic relationship, partying too hard, skipping school, breaking rules, and generally being a hoodlum. Yet she somehow maintains her grades and keeps the adults in her life somehow in the dark with her extracurricular activities. I kept waiting for her to get caught, for someone to step in and say "slow down", or for there to be a breakthrough moment when she realized what she was doing, but one never came.
There almost seems to be this sense of a "Free Pass" for anyone dealing with tragedy and trauma. I'm an adult reading this work and it just all seems so incredibly unlikely to me the way things played out. Perhaps it would be different from a Young Adult perspective, from someone still in Highschool, but I personally discovered no feelings of redemption for this main character.
This may be a book ready to be praised for its forward thinking and willingness to address dark and uncomfortable issues, but for me it was a mediocre turn out at best and the entire things seems rather incoherent.
Until Next Blog,