Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

  

“But no one else can save you, not really. Not from yourself,” he said. “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.”

This book broke my heart into a million pieces and then slowly put them all back together again. It was in no way the book I imagined it would be, and I’d argue it’s one of the best YA books I’ve read in terms of how it deals with grief, identity, abuse and teen relationships. I don’t think I’ve read anything that so perfectly captures all of those things since Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.

One of the things I found most poignant about the book, in which Laurel writes letters to dead celebrities after being set an assignment by a teacher who knew her dead sister, is the fact that she so obviously is not ready to deal with her sister’s death. She writes to them to understand life, and the impact lives have, in order to process the impact May’s death has had on her. I cried a little when Laurel is finally able to address a letter to her sister.

The other characters are also perfectly written, with their own separate back stories and troubles so there wasn’t one character I wasn’t interested in hearing about. Like I said before, Love Letters to the Dead was a much different book to what I was expecting, and the discussion of sexuality, abuse, teenage drinking, domestic abuse and drugs was important and well written.

My only criticism is that the explanation of each dead person’s life, while arguably necessary for the reader, didn’t quite ring true in the context of the letters being addressed to them. It jarred slightly, but in no way detracted from how much I enjoyed the book.

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