Rummanah Aasi
 Love Letters to the Dead is a book that may not be enjoyed by everyone due to its different, stylistic structure. The book is entirely comprised of letters written to dead celebrities. Personally, I never felt I had a close connection to celebrities so the letters in this book didn't really work for me, but I still felt the emotions the book's protagonist, Laurel, was trying to portray. Please note that this review is based on the advanced reader's copy I received from the publisher via Netgalley. Love Letters to the Dead will be pushed on May 5th, 2014 by Farrar Straus Giroux.

Description: 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.

Review: Laurel loved and admired her older sister May. Everything Laurel knows about high school, she learned from her older sister, who tragically died at a very young age. Laurel has to start freshman year on her own. After getting an assignment to write to someone who's died in her English class, Laurel doesn't hand her letter in but keeps going. The book is structured as a journal in letters to famous dead celebrities such as Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, River Phoenix, Judy Garland, and others. Laurel uses the letters to talk about both the past and the unfolding present, confide in her own mixed feelings of anger, hurt, and grief, as well as focusing on the friends she makes, who are also struggling with the problems that played a role in May's life and death.
 Although Dellaria writes beautifully, the letters at first seem a fresh and unique idea, I felt it got repetitive.  Laurel's pervading melancholy feels one-note at times, and the letter format can get wearying, especially when Laurel tells the recipients about their own careers, the epistolary equivalent of expository dialogue. Actually after the fifth or sixth letter, it didn't really matter to whom Laurel addressed her letters to and the letters seemed more like journal entries which dragged the book in the middle for me. I also felt that the secondary characters weren't fleshed out as I would like them to be. There is a second story line featuring a same sex romance, while nicely handled didn't really hold relevance to the story.
  While the book has a strong ending and features an event that is both shocking and heartbreaking as we get to relive the night Amy died, I felt it was too rushed. Overall, Laurel and her friends' struggles and hard-won successes are poignant, and seeing Laurel begin to forgive herself and May is extremely moving. Fans of Perks of Being a Wallflower will be drawn to this frank story about loss, grief, and forgiveness.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language and underage drinking and drug use throughout the novel as well as allusions to sexual abuse and attempted rape. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobosky, Without Tess by Marcella Pixley, All rivers flow to the sea by Alison McGhee
3 Responses
  1. This is on my list. Thanks for the great information.


  2. I thought about getting this one, but I didn't and I am glad. I read a book a few years ago that was entirely in letter format and it just didn't work for me, plus I don't want to be dragged down, this seems to emotional and depressing.


  3. Clementine Says:

    I shared a lot of your issues with this one. I never felt like the epistolary format worked very well, and it kept readers at a distance from all the characters. But it was definitely unique.


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