Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

        For all the teen contemporary realistic fiction fans out there... this is a fascinating book! 

Lauren is given an assignment at the beginning of the school year to write a letter to someone who has passed away. Of course the events that recently occurred in her life, the sudden death of her older sister, make this task all the more poignant. Lauren writes the assignment but doesn’t turn it in. Instead she continues on a yearlong journey of writing as a way of dealing with the traumatic events in her life.  She writes to a number of famous people who died before their time such as Kurt Cobain, Heath Ledger, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin and Amelia Earhart. 

This is a wonderfully written, yet horribly tragic story about loss… Author, Ava Dellaira has either experienced the loss of a sibling or done excellent research. Young survivors often feel profound loss when an older sibling is suddenly not there to provide a path; feeling abandoned by the grieving parents, they often flounder to find a sense of purpose in life. In addition, “Love Letters to the Dead” includes the divorce of Lauren and May’s parents. This seems to be the catalyst for May’s destructive behavior. The girls are left feeling frustrated, guilty and abandoned; could they have kept the parents together? Were they the reason their parent’s broke up? Lauren idolizes her sister but May, with no one to go to, turns to alcohol and men to escape the desperately need to feel loved. Now Lauren is repeating the actions of May as her life begins to spiral out of control. Lauren holds the secret to what really happened to May the night she died which is slowly revealed at the end of the story.

The book was wonderfully written and will be an excellent addition to a young adult library collection. The journal format will appeal to teens as will the interesting biographical information about the famous musicians and actors within the letters Lauren writes. My only negative is that the plot felt like a checklist of every traumatizing event that can occur in a teen’s life. There was so much added, in fact, that I felt it took away from the realism of the story. That being said, the sequence of events may be like watching a car accident; we don’t want to look but are shocked into doing it. If you’ve loved, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky, you’ll love "Love Letters to the Dead"!

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