Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaria

Genres: Romance, Young Adult, Contemporary, Death, Coming of Age
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: April 1st 2014 (January 1st 2014)


“And maybe what growing up really means is knowing that you don’t have to be just a character, going whichever way the story says. It’s knowing you could be the author instead.”

It all starts with an English assignment. Laurel is asked to write a letter to someone dead. Instead of choosing her sister, the obvious candidate, Laurel writes to Kurt Cobain. She then finds that she doesn’t want to stop writing. She writes to various passed on celebrities about her daily life, her new crush, and ultimately just what happened on the night her sister died.

Starting with an English assignment is a bit of a cliche but it does lend the book a fantastic story-telling device. The various letters and celebrities offer a unique platform for Dellaira to write from. Something the story would not be half as interesting without.

The writing is absolutely perfect for the character. I can feel Laurel’s voice come through. Unlike a lot of YA the words and feelings feel realistic. As though they are something a real teenager could feel.  However, sometimes her voice jumps too far. Too young or too wise. Not the sort of accidental intelligence or vulnerability a teenager might have but one that makes me forget she’s not 10 or 24, she’s 14.

I also absolutely adored Laurel’s relationship with her sister. The traces of magic, and the loss that she felt throughout the novel. The side characters were also written well. Interesting, developed, and diverse. Hannah and Natalie’s subplot particularly touched me.

It wasn’t a perfect book, there was a lot that felt a little out of place and it relied on quite a few cliches to hold itself up. But it was written beautifully. It managed to be meaningful without making the characters into overly intelligent caricatures of teenagers.

It captured what it means to lose, to love and to let go. The suspense throughout the book will not let you down. The format can leave areas where the story gets slow, or you hear more about a celebrity than you really cared to know (feels a bit like a history lesson) but it’s ultimately a rewarding read.


Read this if you’re a fan of: The Last Time We Say Goodbye


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