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.
It had been a long time since I read any book, since I even sat through any book for that matter. I was really looking forward to buddy reading Love Letters to the Dead with my friend Tanja @ Ja Citam, a ti? since the time when we were both waiting on it. Unfortunately, assignments, studies and exams didn't let me do that. Although when Tanja told me she found the book to be really interesting, I knew I would too and how right were we! This was just the kind of contemporary story that I actually prefer and like even and it was a perfect read to get out of almost a month-long reading slump and mark the beginning of holidays.
Love Letters to the Dead is a book written in the form of letters that the protagonist Laurel has to write to dead people as part of her school assignment. This format is easy and so much fun to read because it is something different and makes the reading experience very interesting and refreshing. Author Ava Dellaira does a smashing job with the writing. It is so clean and poetic. What adds to the beauty of it is lines borrowed from various poems and an absolutely beautiful original poem that marks the end of a story which is exactly how I like my stories to be- disturbing, sad and simply astounding. If that isn't enough, most of the letters are addressed to famous musicians that practically the entire world has heard of which makes music, in a very hidden and somber way, an integral part of the book.
From a few incidents that Laurel narrates to the people she writes her letters to, I could make out what the issue with her was and I was right about it and that contributes in making the story predictable. But the way in which the story was executed and presented was simply gorgeous. Besides, Laurel's issues weren't the only focus. The people around her- her dad, her mom, her sister, her friends, her love interest- each one had some issue or the other and it was the sense of togetherness that they shared, in sadness and in happy days, that made the story so touching. I have avoided speaking of the story and I really don't wish to change my mind at this point. But for me- and this is for the reader to find out how and why- the book is not just about Laurel, it's about her sister May and her friends Hannah and Natalie.
There were some aspects to it, like the predictability of the story, the importance given to characters whose absence wouldn't had made much of a difference, the focus on how things should be rather than how they actually are and a natural submission of women to male domination, what makes this book so interesting is how real it is. And reality, as cruel as it might be, is reality and it hits straight in the face. The fact that it had just been a really long time since I actually read a great book made me put aside these minute negatives and made me admire Love Letters to the Dead a lot and I'm glad I read it. It wasn't extraornidary, yes, but it has definitely and undoubtedly made it to the list of the few books that I actually liked reading so far in 2014.