Monday, March 31, 2014

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Laurel is given an assignment in Freshman English to write a letter to a dead person.  While she doesn't turn in the assignment, for the rest of the year she continues to write to dead celebrities about her life.  Her sister died and she's starting at a new school district, meeting new friends, navigating potential pitfalls, and meeting boys.  As the year goes on Laurel meets a group of friends and a boy that makes a major impact on her, but she keeps everything about May's life and death to herself.  As things progress she learns that she must deal with what truly happened before and after May died.  She must learn to forgive May, herself, and her mother (who abandons her after the tragedy).

I wanted to like this book.  I SO wanted to.  The idea of it sounds great... it sounded a little like Ketchup Clouds, which I did love.  Though instead of writing to a guy on death row, she's writing to dead rock stars and actors and such.  Mostly these letter-style books usually just turn out like regular books, there's just a Dear Whoever in the beginning.  I don't know about you, but when I write a letter to someone I don't write it in book style.  But these letter books always seem to be written in scenes and convos just like a regular book.  And duh I get why, but if it's a letter I want something a little bit different.

Anyhow... that's not the reason I wasn't feeling this book.  The reason is Laurel.  She was only in 9th grade and yeah she's been through a lot... but I would think that would make her wise for her age.  Well it didn't.  She was so immature.  And I know I was probably a super annoying teenager at that age doing and saying super annoying things... but I don't want to read about one.  She was SUCH a follower.  Everything her friends did, she went along with and did.  Everything they said, she parroted like an idiot.  She was trying to BE her dead sister for much of the book too.  And it annoyed me because honestly her dead sister was very troubled, so why she wanted to be her was beyond me.  Plus, get your own identity.  I mean every single dead famous person she wrote to were idols of people she knew.  Like if someone she met had a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt on, she'd be like, who is that?, they'd tell her, she'd go home and Wikipedia them, and write them a letter.  It annoyed me.  Why don't you like who YOU like, instead of who you think is "cool"??

I guess it's my personal taste.  I don't want to read about the girl who eats Nutter Butters at lunch because that's what everybody else eats.  I want to read about the girl who marches to her own beat.  Eats whatever she wants, listens to bands that she personally likes, or at least figures out who she really is at some point.

The other thing was the plethora of pedophiles.  College guys (and 25 year olds) should NOT be dating/messing around with/whatever 14 and 15 year-olds.  That is gross.  I'm not saying that it was promoted in this book or anything.  It wasn't like shown as a good thing... but it just kept being shown over and over.  All these older guys with 9th graders.  I just couldn't.

The execution of these letters was another thing.  Maybe this is just a thing with me, but it annoyed me to no end the way Laurel talked in these letters.  She's like- Dear River Phoenix, I read online that you grew up in a family that was involved in a cult and that you guys moved to Hollywood so you could act.  So here's what happened to me today.  Ummmm ok???  How does you Wikipedia-ing River Phoenix have anything to do with you sleeping over at your friends house?  There wasn't a lot of connecting the writing to the dead people to how it related to her life... which is what I wanted.  I guess if I were to say something nice about these letters it would be that it is cool to see people that I grew up listening to/watching on TV still making an impact on a younger generation. (But it also seems pretty unrealistic that all these kids in her life idolize so many artists from the 70's-90's).

I did like Laurel's two friends Hannah and Natalie, who are in love with each other, but having a hard time admitting it out loud.  I thought that part of the book was interesting and actually made me feel something.  It's pretty much the only thing that kept me reading.

So yeah this book is just not for me.  The annoying-ness of young teens was overwhelming, the disconnect with the letters, the pedophiles and lack of any parental guidance... it was just too much.  Also the "big reveal" was pretty obvious to me.  I saw it coming a mile away.  I don't want to tell you what it is, but I will tell you that it's common in YA books.

OVERALL: Pass on this one.  The idea of it sounds fun, but it is not executed well.  The main character has zero identity... she's just wandering around trying to be like other people.  And she's annoying and immature.  Read at your own risk!

This Book Contains:
  • Of course letters to people like: Jim Morrison, River Phoenix, Kurt Cobain, etc.
  • Death
  • First Love
  • Parental abandonment
  • Parties
  • LGBT issues 
  • Teenage rebellion
  • Religion (the aunt)
  • Arizona
  • Wikipedia (kidding)
  • Parties- drugs, alcohol, etc.

My Rating:


How I got this book: Thanks to Netgalley and Farrar, Straus, Giroux (BYR) for allowing me to read and honestly review this book.
Date Published: 4/1/2014 (April fool's... coincidence??  I don't think so.)


  1. That's so disappointing! This one has been pretty high on my to-read list but I keep reading reviews which are less than favourable. So it seems like this one is promising concept but lacking in the execution... Annoying and Immature characters aren't really my thing. Great review Michelle :)

    Kate @ Fictional Thoughts

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  3. Repost:
    First of all I really like your reviewing style. I'm an oldish follower.

    I still want to read this book, but I can understand why you don't like it. I would find all of that insanely annoying in a person in real life.

    Rebecca @ Vicariously!

  4. Sad you didn't like this one. I have been seeing it around a lot. And for some reason I didn't think it was written in letters but that makes sense given the title. It's not my favorite format for books because it just never seems like that's how anyone would write a real letter. I will probably still read this one but maybe wait for the library.

  5. The letters didn't bother me and I liked learning facts about the people. I didn't particularly like her, but I felt like it was REALLY realistic. Actually, it mirrored my own teen life FAR too well! I wasn't a follower like her and was more comfortable in my own skin, but not by much. The older guys thing though, that was really realistic. It's just sick and was super hard to read about. The book was just hard for me because it was SO dark for me and made me relive the teen stuff I never want to remember. I think for teens though, it's probably good.

  6. I keep hearing not-so-great reviews for this one which is a bummer because I almost went to an author event promoting it tomorrow! But I'm glad I'm not going to waste my time now haha! Sorry it missed the mark for you!

    1. I'm glad to know that there are other people out there that didn't like this one. I was starting to feel crazy because so many of the reviews that I've been seeing have been glowing. I was like, did we read the same book??? But the weird thing is I would read another book be this author... I thought she showed talent, there were just too many "things" that annoyed me :)

  7. This has had so many high reviews that I' actually happy to see someone who thought the same as me about this book! I found the poetic writing irritating after a while. You put across a lot of points that I haven't thought of before but definitely agree with. I haven't posted my review yet but I gave it 2 stars in the end.

    Under The Mountain