Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Book Review | Love Letters to the Dead.

“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 friendship, 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 she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.” (synopsis from (x)

Love Letters to the Dead, written by Ava Dellaira, is a truly interesting debut novel. It begins with Laurel writing to a dead person for a school assignment. It ends with us, the readers, following her trials and triumphs through the first year without her sister by her side.

As the title may suggest, this isn’t a light read. It is sad, provocative and strong, but it is not a happy novel.

Laurel is a great character. We watch as, over the course of the novel, she tries to come to terms with what she has gone through. We watch her develop and turn into this wilful character, who is doing the best she can with what she has. It’s a really, really great character arc. Dellaira manages to maintain this level of development with almost all the characters. This really impressed me because there are a number of secondary characters. I also really liked the diversity of the characters and their personal problems. It was just really realistic.

Dellaira’s writing itself was easily one of my favourite things about this novel. The eloquence and poetry that evolved was gorgeous. She really captured imagery and feelings without losing the voice of Laurel. A+ job. A+.

I also really liked how the author divided the chapters. By changing who the letters were directed to, I found that it changed up the pace a bit, and it kept me well interested.

However, Love Letters to the Dead was not without its flaws. Sometimes, I found the dialogue or the narration a little stilted or out of character.  It wasn’t an often occurrence, but because of that, it sorta stuck out like a sore thumb. Similarly, I sometimes found things a little repetitive. Again, it wasn’t a really common thing, but it stuck out a little to me.

This may be a more personal preference, but I also would’ve really liked to have known what had happened to May from the get-go. I had vague ideas and pre-judgements, but it wasn’t fully answered till the latter part of the book. Not necessarily a bad thing, I just wanted to know straight away. It’s a bit difficult to say that though, because at the same time, we almost watch as Hannah becomes disillusioned towards May and we learn more about her (May) as a sister.

Overall, Love Letters to the Dead is a solid debut. The novel had a really interesting way of writing, and a great set of characters. I’m really keen to see what Ava Dellaira produces next.

Rating: ***.5 (3.5/5)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Macmillan)
Publication Date: April 1st 2014

Thank you NetGalley for providing me with an e-arc

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