Love Letters to the Dead


Love Letters to the Dead.

By Ava Dellaria.

Pages: 323.

Rating: 3.5 /5. 41wXZ99jp+L

From the back cover:

It begins as an assignment for English class: write a letter to a dead person – any dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain – he died young, and so did Laurel’s sister May – so maybe he’ll understand a bit of what Laurel is going through. Soon Laurel is writing letters to lots of dead people – Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, River Phoenix, Amelia Earhart …it’s like she can’t stop…But much as Laurel might find writing the letters cathartic, she can’t keep real life out forever. The ghosts of her past won’t be contained between the lines of a page, and she will have to come to terms with growing up, the agony of losing a beloved sister, and the realisation that only you can shape your destiny.

A short synopsis:

Laurel is grieving for her sister, May, and blaming herself for her death. She writes letters to famous people that died young and were troubled whilst they were alive. In these letters she talks about her life without May and how much it hurts her to be in a world without her sister.

Laurel turned away from the pain of her sister’s death, choosing to go to a high school where she thought no-one would know about May. She makes new friends and even falls in love, but she is broken. No-one can fill the hole that May has left, or relieve her of the guilt that she carries. As she ruins her relationship and risks losing her friends also she realises that she has to start acknowledging May to those who did not know her. She has to tell someone why she believes that her sister’s death is her fault.


My main issue with this book is that it is called ‘Love Letters to the Dead’, I was expecting letters and that was not what I got. The book did not read like a collection of letters, instead it was a general prose punctuated with ‘Dear {insert name of dead famous person here}’ and the ‘Yours Laurel’ every now and then.

The first half of this book was painfully slow, I found it difficult to relate to Laurel or even like her. She was just a generic mad-at-the-world teenager and her ‘letters’ felt more like whinging than anything else. I could not empathise with her in the slightest. I very nearly gave up with the book. However, I am so glad that I persevered as the latter half is incredible; beautifully written, sincere and heartfelt. Laurel develops into a broken girl desperately trying to piece together the shattered parts of herself so that she can become the young woman that she wants to be. She realises that she is not the only one who has suffered tragedy and heartache within her friendship group, yet she is the only one who has fallen apart and given up on her life. She gets her spark back and as the reader you begin to root for her.

I could tell that this was the writer’s debut novel, it was as though you could feel her growing in confidence as the book progressed. It shows her developing and becoming a better writer as time goes on. I would still be interested in reading further work from Dellaria as I feel that she offers a lot of potential. She could be truly brilliant. LLttD would be an amazing book if only the quality of the second half of the book was preceded by work of the same high-standard.

Overall, it was an okay read. If you can get past the first half then you are in for a treat but the first part really is a challenging read.


6 comments on “Love Letters to the Dead

  1. I thought the same thing. And then I wondered if the change in writing was a change in Laurel herself. Was she becoming more comfortable with writing the letters?
    I still don’t know if it was that or that it was Dellaira’s debut. Maybe both. I also didn’t think about this until a while after I’d read it.

  2. Pingback: Soldier on. | FangirlsBookcase

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