Review: Love Letters To The Dead by Ava Dellaira

Love Letters To The Dead Ava Dellaira
Love Letters To The Dead Ava Dellaira cover

Title: Love Letter to the Dead 
Author: Ava Dellaira 
Series: Stand-alone 
Genre: Contemporary, YA 
Publication date: April 1, 2014 
Rating: ★★★ 

Synopsis: 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. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven't forgiven? It's not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally 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 truly start to discover her own path.

I have very mixed feelings about this book. It started out really bad. Terrible even. And it didn’t even have anything to do with the fact that the book is written through letters. I usually don’t like this very much, but in this case it didn’t bother me. What did annoy me were the characters. I didn’t like any of them. Not Laurel, the main character, not her dead sister May, not her dad, not the aunt she lives with and definitely not her friends.

The story starts when Laurel starts high school in a new neighbourhood. She doesn’t know anyone and because of her sister’s death, she isn’t very keen on meeting new people. Until one day she decides this can’t go on any longer and she sits down with one of her classmates. BAM. Instant besties. Hannah and Natalie are two seemingly regular girls, but they have something ‘cool’ about them. (I’ll tell you all about it, just a sec.) While she is sitting with them, she notices a guy staring at her. The guy turns out to be another transfer student, Sky, and he’s a bit ‘mysterious’. She meets his eyes and BAM, feelings. A couple of stares and a “Hey, what’s up?” later, BAM, in love. And that’s basically how the entire first half of the book goes. There’s no room for development. Things just happen. Like that. Laurel is a shell. There is no depth in her or any of the characters. After 150 pages I wouldn’t have been able to tell you who Laurel was like or what defined her, except that she just follows whatever anyone else does. And let’s get back to the friends. Hannah is the worst. She is so ‘awesome’. She steals booze from stores, smokes, gets wasted over and over, has two college boyfriends at the same time, leads on her best friend etc. And her having a shitty home situation makes that okay. Well, I for one didn’t think Hannah was ‘cool’. I thought she was really pathetic. Natalie was better, but not much.

And still it wasn’t this book’s main problem. Apart from the shitty characters it was just incredibly booooooring. I haven’t quit a book in years, but I have to admit I came really close this time. Nothing in the first half captured my interest. There were a lot of things going on, but I honestly couldn’t care less about any of it. There were feelings, but I didn’t feel them. Take Laurel’s relationship with Sky. She claims she’s madly in love and she talks about how electrifying it is when she’s near him. How she feels so passionately about him. But to be honest, my love life is more electrifying than hers and I’ve been single since forever. Everything else was just more of the same.

Also, Ava Dellaira is terrible at writing dialogue. Scenes that were supposed to be very significant and even vulnerable, just felt really ridiculous. I’m not sure how to explain it properly, but you’d get it if you read the book. I don’t know, it just didn’t work for me.

“Anyway, you’re the one who doesn’t want to be my boyfriend.”
“How do you know?”
“You’re not like that.”
“What if you’re wrong? What if I am?”
“You are?”
“Well, I am now.”

Despite all this, I gave this book a three star rating. Things changed about halfway through, when we finally got to know what happened on the night May died. For me, it felt like this had been the real story all along. This was the actual start of the story. Only by then, I’d already read about 200 pages and had thought about quitting at least three times. The author obviously wanted to keep the circumstances of that evening a secret as long as possible, but she failed in her attempt to create ‘mystery’.

FINALLY the characters showed some depth. Suddenly there were true feelings, real stories and even meaningful quotes. It felt like a different book and I think that this part of the story told the author’s initial idea. I liked how things were more complex than they’d seemed, I liked how Laurel and Sky finally became alive and got a personality.

Sometimes we want our bodies to do a better job of showing the things that hurt us, the stories we keep hidden inside.

Now that I’ve finished, I think that this book actually had a lot of potential. It shows in the last chapters. I’m glad I didn’t quit. The second part changes the way I’ll remember it. There were certainly parts that made me think about myself and life in general. So, like I said. I have very mixed feelings about this book.

What I told you about saving people isn’t true. You might think it is, because you might want someone else to save you, or you might want to save someone so badly. But no one else can save you, not really. Not from yourself. You fall asleep in the foothills, and the wolf comes down from the mountains. And you hope someone will wake you up. Or chase it off. Or shoot it dead. But when you realize that the wolf is inside you, that’s when you know. You can’t run from it. And no one who loves you can kill the wolf, because it’s part of you. They see your face on it. And they won’t fire the shot.

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