- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (April 1 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374346674
- ISBN-13: 978-0374346676
- Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 3 x 21.5 cm
- Shipping Weight: 318 g
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
#222,552 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #301 in Books > Children's Books > Growing Up & Facts of Life > Difficult Discussions > Death & Dying
- #1053 in Books > Children's Books > Growing Up & Facts of Life > Family Life > Siblings
- #1639 in Books > Children's Books > Growing Up & Facts of Life > Friendship, Social Skills & School Life > Emotions & Feelings
Love Letters to the Dead: A Novel Hardcover – Apr 1 2014
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“Reminiscent of Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower, this is powerfully emotional stuff.” ―BCCB
“Dellaira's characters are authentically conceived and beautifully drawn.” ―The Horn Book
“Best for teens who enjoyed Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” ―School Library Journal
“Laurel and her friends' struggles and hard-won successes are poignant, and seeing Laurel begin to forgive herself and May is extremely moving.” ―Publishers Weekly
“I simply loved this book. Love Letters to the Dead is more than a stunning debut. It is the announcement of a bold new literary voice.” ―Stephen Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower
“A brilliant story about the courage it takes to keep living after your world falls apart. A heart-wrenching celebration of love and friendship and family.” ―Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak
“With beautiful observations of where life can take us, from grieving to celebrating, disappointment to wonder, LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD is a love letter to living.” ―Jay Asher, author of 13 Reasons Why
“Dear Ava Dellaira: Your book broke my heart, and pieced it back together. As with Kurt, Janis, Amelia and the others who are gone but still somehow here, LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD leaves an indelible mark.” ―Gayle Forman, author of If I Stay
“As wondrous--and as fearless--as a shooting star.” ―Lauren Myracle, author, The Winnie Years
“Riveting, captivating, utterly disarming. I could not put this book down! LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD is like discovering a shoebox full of notes addressed to someone else. I read fast, afraid I'd be caught peeking at something I wasn't ever supposed to see. A voyeuristic delight!” ―Siobhan Vivian, author of The List
“Effective and satisfyingly heartbreaking.” ―Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Ava Dellaira is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she was a Truman Capote Fellow. She grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago. Love Letters to the Dead is her debut novel. She currently lives in Santa Monica. avadellaira.com
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I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I liked that each letter meant that Laurel would be talking about a different character or point in her life. I also liked that you could see Laurel's character development in the way that she addressed the people she was writing letters to. It started out with praise for their lives, work, etc. and then turned into "I get that you were awesome, but did you realize what you left behind?" especially with one of the Kurt Cobain letters at the end of the novel. That one really struck me.
I thought that the depiction of grief was SO GOOD. Like, so good. You could see Laurel going through all the different stages and what that meant. I thought that her character was just extremely well written. I liked her interactions with Sky and that they both realized their relationship was toxic at a certain point because it was not healthy.
The only thing I would have liked was a clear definition of whether or not May committed suicide. I felt as if the author skirted around that and I would have rather known whether or not it was a definite. Otherwise, I really enjoyed this one. And would recommend it for a good contemporary read.
Right from the start this book gives the vibe of impending doom and sadness. This isn’t a happy story and it deals with some sensitive and difficult issues.
I know I’m not the intended audience for this book, the target audience would be (probably) high school kids. I found it odd that most of the dead people Laurel wrote “Love” letters to died a long time ago. I don’t know how relevant they would be to this generation.
I found myself frequently forgetting who the letters were to, it was just Laurels rant/feels at [insert celebrity name], which was disappointing. What I liked most about the book was the conclusion, it had a really satisfying ending.
This book is about love, loss and the process of moving on.
Also, I would totally write letters to Humphrey Bogart <3
Laurel's first english assignment at her new school is to write a letter to someone who's dead. She's pretty sure her teacher wants them to write to some historical figure but she has a different idea. Her sister, May, had died the previous April. She had been high and took a dive off the railway bridge where they used to play a game called "Pooh Sticks" when they were younger. Laurel admired her sister and is lost without her. She decides to write letters to twelve famous people who died too young, who, like her sister, were terribly talented, charismatic, and somewhat messed up, looking for something but they didn't know what.
Laurel addresses her first letter to Kurt Cobain because he was her sister's favourite musician. She tells him all about her insecurities about starting high school and how her sister May would have known exactly what to do. She talks about her english assignment from the only teacher she knows at her new school. In her second letter, she tells him that she didn't hand the assignment in because there are some things that are too personal to share.
When Laurel writes to Amy Winehouse and Judy Garland, she tells stories about her current life, how her mom left, and things she used to do with her sister. She's looking for answers about why people do things that cause them to die, and for answers about how to live her life now, without her big sister. She writes to Janis Joplin and River Phoenix as well. But it isn't until she finds the courage to write about bad things that happened to her because May hadn't really taken good care of her that she realizes her sister wasn't perfect and that she can learn from May's mistakes and create a life for herself, that her memory of May could be more balanced without diminishing her love for May.
When I finished reading Love Letters to the Dead, I was still a bit unsure how I felt about it. As a Christian, I felt there should be other ways to find answers and get your head on straight again, but I also saw the cathartic nature of writing your ideas and questions down on paper, even if you're writing to someone who can't answer your questions. This is Ava Dellaira's debut novel and it was a very interesting story ' one with many surprises including the ending. I'd recommend reading it before giving it to a teenager in your family ' it might not be for everyone, and a certain maturity is required, I think, for someone to not get mired down in it. None-the-less, a worthwhile read.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
But thats not why I'm here.When this book gets going,esp after Laurel's breakdown/through of her sister May's demise,I was truly heartbroken.Like,in a fit.I hadn't reacted so much to a book since when I first read White Oleander.And thats when the flower prose actually worked and fitted in with the story.I dont want to give it all away but its worth the read,esp when Laurel goes in on the wasteland of dead celebrities and having the world at your feet only to lose it.I still tear up at certain parts just Thinking about them.I now hope that this is the latest teen book to have the film treatment,I'll be first in line.
3 Things You Need to Know:
1. Epistolary Novel. This is a story told in letters. While I hear many a complaint about this, I really enjoyed this format and felt that it did the story justice. Sometimes you can’t sort out feelings and emotions until you tell them to another person. The character of Laurel understands this as she writes letters to dead icons throughout history. Sometimes their stories give Laurel insight, and sometimes they are simply there to listen. Either way, Laurel discovers insights about her feelings, and about life around her. After all, high school is never easy.
2. All aboard the FEELS train! I had an idea about how this book would end, but I did not expect the pain and emotion that would come with it. Ugh. Dellaira definitely knows how to make you feel ALL THE THINGS. I found myself wanting to hold Laurel and protect her from life’s cruelties; something that I often feel when looking back at my own teen years.
3. A place for the lovers of music, poetry, and culture. Dellaira writes so beautifully as she intertwines snippets of reality into Laurel’s world. While still giving vivid and beautiful descriptions about life, love, and everything in-between, she carefully sculpts the voice of a questioning teen. Laurel’s voice is authentic as it is original. While still maintaining the form of a vulnerable and broken girl, you see all the potential that Laurel has. It is equal parts lovely and heartbreaking.
I really enjoyed this book. While it may have been due to where I was in my life, I still believe that this is a beautifully written novel. Love letters are totally capable of telling a story, and Ava Dellaira proves this over and over again. I gave this book four stars on Goodreads.
Check out more of my reviews at ofspectaclesandbooks.com
The format is a challenge. I'm not convinced the letters to dead people were the best way to tell the story. The targets of the letters played some role in Laurel's character development, and the eventual shift in her relationship with her (also dead) sister. However, the author chewed up a lot of words regurgitating facts Laurel had looked up online about these famous people. This didn't feel natural, in that I don't think one would actually restate so many facts about someone when writing a letter to them -- at least not in that much detail. As a device, it sometimes felt awkward and pulled me out of the narrative.
tl;dr: I wonder if the story wouldn't have been stronger from a standard first-person or close third POV. The letters feel like a device that became precious to the writer in an early draft, and may have been able to be removed or refined more later.
It’s a slippery slope. Stephen Chbosky did this with Perks of Being a Wallflower and it became a cult classic. I think it helped that Chbosky chose an anonymous recipient. That left more space for the main character in the narrative, as opposed to exposition re: the recipient’s histories.
Speaking of the main character, I struggled a bit with believability/authenticity. Sometimes Laurel felt too juvenile, and sometimes her insights felt too mature – or at least too capable of meta-cognition – for her age. In other words, I occasionally became aware that Laurel’s commentary and insights were really the author’s. Her reactions seemed a little off: like when a teacher says, “May [her sister] was special, too, like you.” Laurel is mostly tickled that her teacher said she was like May. I get that little sisters look up to big sisters and want to be like them, but to say that to a grieving teen – her reaction would be much more complicated, and maybe even bristly.
Likewise, this book suffers from something I see in a lot of teen stories. Laurel and the love interest, Sky, are shown falling in love mainly through looks, car rides, and then kissing. Teen love is way more than lust, right? When they’re falling in love, I wanted to see them connecting in that intense, not-just-kissing way teen lovers do. I want to see why Laurel is so pulled to him. It’s not just that he’s handsome and mysterious. We see that much later in the story. And it’s not just kissing – we see that later, too. But we’re expected to fill in the blanks of the emotional connection too much in the early stages.
That’s not to say I didn’t like the story, or the characters. I liked the ambiguity around May’s death, and the way it made Laurel grapple with her views of others’ lives and motivations. I liked that the author included LGBT characters. I liked the way Laurel’s adoration of the famous deceased she’s writing to falls apart and matures over time. I appreciated that the author didn’t glorify suicide, or any of the other questionable ways the famous folks in Laurel’s letters died. I appreciated that the characters all had unique and complicated lives – they weren’t two-dimensional stereotypes. However, there were a few flaws that got in the way of the narrative flow and character development.