Love Letters to the Dead By Ava Dellaira
Published April 1st 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
"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.
I wanted so, so much to be a fan of Love Letters to the Dead. The title implied an interesting and thought provoking read. A girl's coming of age story while dealing with tragedy. And the cover ... it's awesome. Simple, yet the soft pallet of colors and image of the girl perched on the text makes it very pleasing to the eye. I sought this book out, picked it as the first read out of my library haul. This is Ava Dellaira's debut novel, and I always have high hopes for new authors. But is it possible that she took too many risks with this one?
I AM DISAPPOINTED. Even a bit irritated. It is so rare that I consider DNF'ing a book. But I did. Love Letters and I just did not click. I stuck it out though, the author deserved that much from me. I think the thing about this book is that it is an obvious attempt to produce a cacophony of feelings. In that aspect it succeeds. However, experiencing strong emotions is not enough for me to deem this book heart-wrenching or even likable. This story is compared to the ever popular, Perks of Being a Wallflower. A book I found to be beautiful and raw. But everything that Perks is, Love Letters to the Dead is NOT. I do not even want to get into how against this comparison I am, so I won't.
A very short background: The MC's family has suffered a loss. One that has left all three remaining family members unable to truly cope. The MC is socially inept. The friends she does make are not even in the realm of someone you would bring home to mom. She falls into insta-love with a boy. The entirety of her story is given in the form of letters to the most obvious and stereotypical dead people she could think of. She succumbs to mass amounts of peer pressure. Finally the MC realizes she is growing up, so she writes a bad poem. THE END. (OK. So, I could have been a bit nicer. I'm sure many of you would find this plot-line... good?)
Let's talk about Laurel. This girl. Oh my lordy. She is just the most malleable and desperate little thing. Her desperation to have a friend(s) and be like her sister floored me. Not to mention her naivety. She views her sister, (and states it multiple times,) as a model of perfection. Someone who has done no wrong and can do no wrong. No, Laurel. Your thinking is WRONG. It is obvious from page one that in reality May is a rule breaker. She sleeps around, parties and engages in "recreational activities." I swear. Laurel must live in the clouds. May has used her sister and enabled Laurel's continued denial.
SIDE NOTE: (She took her LITTLE sister with her so she could go have sex with a guy who is years older. Then leaves her LITTLE sister with one of this guys friends, ALONE. As if nothing bad would happen. YEA. But then again, Laurel is so desperate to have her sister love her that she allows this guy to do "things" to her repeatedly and doesn't even attempt to put an end to it... OMG. It is just so fricken SAD and DESPERATE. I can't wrap my head around it.) :END SIDE NOTE
Regardless of the tragedy in her life, this girl takes her immaturity and--have I mentioned--DESPERATION to a whole other level. She allows herself to be pushed around by friends and almost raped. All to what? Prove herself? I don't think so. No one has this little of self respect. Even the boy she falls into insta-love with doesn't want to be with her if she can't stop pretending to be someone else. I guess I can't adequately put into words all the things that were wrong with this MC. She drove me nuts.
How about the other characters? Your thinking there has to be a redeeming one in the book. WRONG. Her "best friends" are ridiculous and almost as desperate as Laurel. I guess that's why they are all friends. Sky is her love interest. He is broken too. But at least he has the sense to break up with her, at least for a while. Laurel's family makes me sputter. Her dad is forlorn and totally blind when it comes to his children. The mother I guess is no better. She abandons both Laurel and the dad after May dies to live in CA and become a hippy/floozy thing. Aunt Amy is supposedly a Jesus freak, but allows herself to be manipulated by men. Have I covered them all? If I haven't it doesn't matter.
So, Love Letters to the Dead obviously wouldn't make sense without some letters to dead people right? This is what attracted me to this book in the first place. I wanted to see what this MC had to say, and who she would write to. Unfortunately, she has picked the most obvious people to write to. I will preface this by saying that I am not a fan of any of these people. Especially Kurt Cobain... But OF COURSE someone like Laurel would be in love with Kurt and others like him. OF FRICKEN COURSE. And this book spends too much time talking about music and how the lives of these artists has altered the world or something. I just can't relate.
I feel bad having dumped all over this book. It is sad. I feel for people who have gone through things like those displayed in this book. But the author went about constructing a story that dealt with hard topics in a juvenile way. Picture a scale where at one end you have the best scenarios and at the other you have the worst. She made her characters practically slide off the end of the worst side, making them unbelievable. It makes me wonder what this author had happen in her life, to feel the need to write this book the way she did.
Because it never happens that I rate a book so low... I don't even have a graphic made for a two rat rating. But that is what I have to give this...
** TWO STARS **