We go through life constantly wondering why other people’s lives are so much better. This person has a better job, that one looks better and that girl has way more money. There is constant envy and sometimes we need to be reminded that envy can be very misplaced.
That’s what a book like Love Letters To The Dead can do. Its story shows that we might think everyone else is perfect, but every single person has issues and problems he or she has to deal with. Unfortunately, I ended up wishing that an other author had grabbed the opportunity to write about this very important topic.
Laurel, the main character of Love Letters To The Dead, gets a simple English assignment on her first day in high school: Write a letter to a deceased person. But instead of writing a generic assignment, Laurel discovers that writing letters to famous dead people is the best form of therapy for her. Her letters become a diary, sharing experiences in her life that somehow remind her of the deceased person. She writers about her dead sister, May, and the guilt she feels revolving her death. She writes about Sky, the cute guy in school, and about her mother, who moved to California after the death of May.
The letters start off pretty basic - like reading the diary of an average 16 year old. However, as the school year gets more difficult, the letters show more and more of the problems Laurel is experiencing. What exactly happened to her sister the night she died? Why did her mother leave? Will she ever be able to open up to Sky?
Because every chapter is a letter, there is a very nice and original pacing to the story. When Laurel writes to Kurt Cobain she discloses different things then when she writes to Amelia Earhart. Each person inspires her to open up about certain subjects and that’s what makes this book a good read. Laurel starts off as your typical teenage girl, but letter by letter it is disclosed that she has experienced a lot more than a normal teenage girl has. Added to that, everything is not just in her narrative, but “written by her” - there is some amazing insight into her personality. She, along with the reader, finds out that things are often not what they seem and most importantly, that people are not what they seem.
Besides the accurate representation of Laurel, the other characters in the book are also diverse and work in the theme that “everyone has issues”. Laurel’s sister May turns out to have had some rough experiences and boyfriend Sky has some family issues. All these problems are again exposed throughout the book in a very subtle, but useful way.
However, besides all of that, I still struggled with the basic writing style of this book. I understand that Laurel is writing the letters and that she’s a teenager, so she can’t be too sophisticated, but she’s a really intelligent teenager. One who is obsessed with poetry. Why are her letters so bland and boringly written? It’s all straight to the point and it just didn’t captivate me. Reading this book is kind of like watching Dr. Phil on repeat all day - it’s drama (good drama in this case though), but presented in such a bland way. I want to read more from Ava Dellaira to find out if this writing style was a creative decision or if this is just the writing style she always uses.
For example, the most liked quote of this book on Goodreads (121 likes and spoiler-free!):
“I think a lot of people want to be someone, but we are scared that if we try, we won't be as good as everyone imagines we could be.”
The messages in this quote? Great and again emphasises the theme, but come on. This looks like a quote someone threw on pinterest, not one in an amazing book. It’s cliché and overdone and bland.
Love Letters To The Dead has all the potential in the world to be one of the best YA books out there - the summer hit of 2014. However, the boring writing style just didn’t do it for me. Whether it was a decision to make Laurel’s writing basic or whether it is the style of the author, I’ll probably never know. But I kinda wish someone else ran with this idea and did it justice.