Wren Reviews: ‘Love Letters to the Dead’

Title: Love Letters to the Dead

Author: Ava Dellaira

Genre: Romance, YA Fiction, Realistic

 

Premise:

(Goodreads)

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. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven’t forgiven?

It’s not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally 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 truly start to discover her own path.

In a voice that’s as lyrical and as true as a favorite song, Ava Dellaira writes about one girl’s journey through life’s challenges with a haunting and often heartbreaking beauty.

 

Plot: The story is about Laurel a girl whose sister died within the past year or so. And she has to deal with the grief and the guilty of her role in May’s death.

Laurel is given an assignment where she must write a letter to a dead person. She chooses Kurt Cobian. On her first day of high school, she wears her old, middle school clothes. And is promptly ignored. When she dons May’s old clothes, she is noticed by Hannah and Natalie. With the two, she gets drunk for the first time. And she sees the two kissing. They say that she can ‘join in’ if she likes, which Laurel doesn’t do.

She meets Kristen and Tristan a couple who are polar opposites. She breaks out of her aunt’s house to go see the couple Kristen and Tristan. She is invited to go on a drive with her crush the mysterious junior Sky. (If you care to know, his real name is Skylar.) Homecoming comes near, and Laurel is invited by Evan a guy in one of her classes. She reluctantly goes with him, wanting to go with Sky instead. And Natalie asks Hannah to go to homecoming with her. And Hannah denies. Evan ditches her during homecoming to dance with his ex-girlfriend. Sky comes to her rescue, though. He takes her home, kissing her in his car. (Which is described as having a leather smell. A very strong one.)

Laurel goes to Hannah’s house for a a sleepover. Natalie drives Hannah’s grandmother’s van and gets it stuck in the sand. Hannah is yelled at by her older brother Jason. Laurel goes to a college Halloween party with her friends. There, she becomes Sky’s girlfriend. With her friends and boyfriend, she visits FallFest a place that she used to go to with her family before May died. She takes Sky home to her dad and introduces the two.

Hannah attains a new boyfriend named Neung. Even though she has Kasey as a boyfriend. Natalie and Laurel visit Neung’s home with Hannah. And Natalie cries after admitting she loves Hannah.

Christmas comes closer. Hannah gets a painting of her favorite flower tulips from Natalie. At a Christmas party, Laurel sees Janey a friend from middle school. She tries to avoid Janey, but it fails. She talks to Janey for a bit. (Janey caught Laurel stealing alcohol.) Laurel calls up Sky and kisses him.

Christmas comes. Laurel’s dad does nothing until Laurel strings out lights around her house with the help of her neighbor. Her dad gets into the holiday spirit and gets a tree. During Christmas, Laurel tells Sky she loves him, and Sky says he loves her.

At a New Year’s Eve party, she writes down her intentions for the year and burns it. (All her friends and Sky do this.) Sky breaks up with Laurel, saying she’s sometimes ‘not there’. Laurel remembers some of the details of May’s death. (But we don’t get the whole story until later.) Laurel, in despair, doesn’t attend school for a while. She goes back and tells Hannah and Natalie that Sky broke up with her. And that her sister May is dead. The two console her on the former and explain they knew about the latter. Sky gets a new girlfriend named Francesca, and she confronts Laurel. Laurel plays ‘the dead game’ which is composed of lying in the street and playing chicken with a car. She scares Sky’s girlfriend away by doing this.

Hannah gets a new boyfriend named Blake. Hannah and Laurel go to his house, and Laurel is almost raped by Blake’s roommate. Or so it seems. Some time passes, and Laurel gets in an argument with her mom who lives in California. She doesn’t speak to her mother for a while.

She confronts Sky about why he broke up with her. And how Sky knew about May’s death. Sky explains, saying they went to Sandia together. And that he beat up Paul May’s boyfriend before her death. And that’s how he got kicked out of Sandia. Laurel, Natalie, and Hannah go to a party. Evan almost rapes Laurel, and Laurel catches Hannah and Natalie kissing. As goes most of everyone there. Including Hannah’s brother Jason. Jason hurts Hannah afterwards. The three friends don’t talk for a while until Hannah and Laurel get to talking. Once they talk, Hannah and Natalie talk.

Laurel reveals what happened on the night May died. She reveals that she had been groped, many times, by Paul’s friend Billy when May went on dates with Paul. Laurel explained this to May who went to the edge of a river and…walked off. (It isn’t clear exactly what happened to her. Suicide or not.) Hannah stays at Laurel’s house for a day before staying at Natalie’s. Laurel doesn’t start dating Sky again but becomes his friend. Sky goes over and talks to her dad on occasion.

Laurel finally meets the Jesus Man a guy her aunt had been crushing on for some time. She tells her aunt to stop perusing the man. Her aunt takes heed of Laurel’s advice. She finally makes up with her mom.

School ends. The group Tristan, Hannah, Natalie, Kristin, and Laurel come together and party. Laurel sees Natalie and Hannah acting like a couple. Hannah and Tristan sing at a bonfire to commemorate Tristan and Kristen’s last day of high school. Sky and Laurel get back together. Laurel writes her last letter to May. And she gives her notebook of letters to her teacher.

And the story ends.

 

Character Development: I typically put the main character in these stories. But I wanted to talk about Sky as well. (And not just because of his unusual name.)

Laurel. I don’t like Laurel. Sure. I like the ‘I’m not broken’ parts of her. I like the ‘fixable’ parts. It’s interesting. I like those types of characters. The ones with dark pasts who act like everything is fine. And we all know it’s not fine. She’s not fine. I like that, though, in a character. The parts I hate are the ones obsessed with Sky. Laurel is like Charlie from ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’. And we all know Charlie loves Sam. But Laurel is obsessed with Sky. I think it’s an unhealthy crush that adds wood to the flame. Not a good thing.

Sky. I feel like he had potential. He could have been a great character. But he isn’t. He is mysterious. That could have been expanded. But it isn’t. I wish it was expanded. I wish Sky was expanded. He had the potential to be more. He’s just ‘Laurel’s boyfriend’. That’s all.

 

Problems: Gosh. This book is ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’. But it has less deeper meaning.

Let me explain.

This book was romance half the time. The other half was it trying to gain deeper meaning. Which didn’t exactly work all the time.

I didn’t like the romance. It is based on nothing. And Laurel seems to be clinging to Sky. She’s whiny and keeps holding on to Sky. Let go. Just let go. He’s your first ‘love’, but you need to get over it.

Gah. Laurel is a bad thing herself. I think her guilt is an interesting point, but she’s whiney. Sky this. Sky that. She has only the guilty going for her. She is all about Sky. And romance. And kissing. And trying to hook up with Sky. Gag.

The story wasn’t very interesting if you ask me. It’s a bit dull. I rather know what happened and how May died in the beginning. Keeping me waiting was dragging it on. And I don’t like how dramatic it was. No action. At all. I didn’t like that.

The characters seemed a bit dull. I didn’t like Natalie and Hannah. Or Tristan and Kristen. I seem to like almost none of these characters. And I only liked a small part of Laurel’s character. They were interesting. But Hannah overreacted when she was caught kissing Natalie.

And that’s another problem. The lesbian romance wasn’t working for me. I didn’t like it. It didn’t seem real. And, if you ask me, it just isn’t romance. Where is it based off of? And why is it there? Trying to bring in LGBT teens? I just don’t know. I don’t think that it would lesbian romance.

And I feel like these characters are just being…stereotyped a bit. I mean…the polar opposite couple. The guy who is a rocker and the girl who is a study bug. The popular girl who gets everyone. And the loner girl turned around. These characters are overused. There should be some originality. I also think ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is a definite influence. (The author is actually her mentor.) But it seems to copy a  lot from ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’. Which I don’t like at all. I don’t like books being copied.

 

Good points: There are a few good points.

I like Laurel’s guilt. It makes her a bit less…emotionless. I think that is interesting to give her guilt. But it’s not guilt that I understand. Why does she think it’s her fault? It was May’s fault for standing on the edge. Laurel was just in shock. Not all people react to those things.

Another good thing is the letters. Not the letters itself or the content really. But the letters were interesting. It wasn’t as well written as ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’, but I liked how Laurel made it to a certain person. But I didn’t like her bringing up ‘you’ or what happened to that person. It was a bit awkward. Especially since I didn’t know some of these singers and poets.

 

Score: 7/10

Recommended: If you like ‘after -insert name of loved one- died’ stories. If you like a girl recovering over a death and hooking up with a guy who has a shady past.

 

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