Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Mini Review & Giveaway: Love Letters to the Dead - Ava Dellaira

Release Date: April 1, 2014
Source: ARC
Published by: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux

Love Letters to the Dead - Ava Dellaira | Goodreads

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 did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to 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 begin to discover her own path.

Wow, so I understand why so many authors have blurbed this novel. And it's easy to see why those authors were asked too: I don't remember much of The Perks of Being a Wallflower except for the epistolary writing style, which Love Letters also has. This book has life truths and a lengthy discussion on grief and living, which would appeal to Gayle Forman (and If I Stay) fans. Jay Asher fans will find some discussion on self-destructive habits and coping with terrible events. Haven't read anything by Laurie Halse Anderson or Lauren Myracle, but from what I've heard of their novels, the comparison there makes sense as well. I can also see this appealing to fans of This Song Will Save Your Life because of the self-discovery aspects in both books (and some of the music love).

My favorite part of this novel was how much time Dellaira spent developing all the characters, even Laurel's parents. In a contemporary, often the characters are what make the book (for me at least), and Dellaira treats her characters with care, sketching their wants and needs, both good and bad, and in the case of Laurel's parents, giving us their back stories so we can understand their grief and situation more. All come off very realistic. (I'm focusing on the parents because it's not often that the friend group and the familial group are given equal attention). I also liked how Dellaira used her characters to discuss tough issues, like other difficult familial situations, in addition to grief and self-acceptance.

Another thing I liked about Dellaira's characters was specifically how she used them to discuss grief. For one the portrayal of May was done perfectly: transitioning from that larger than life idol into someone who was hurting and completely fallible in her own right. For the other characters... each member of the family deals differently with his/her grief. Laurel's friendships start off with her fixating on them, and not how she fits within her group. She's afraid of letting them in, and doesn't think they'll ever get to know her or like her if they did. Just as she must let them in in order to heal, she must recognize her own grief in order to understand that of her parents. It's a very wonderful and neat way of joining everything together - all her relationships - into this sad, heart-wrenching discussion of grief. Especially how her very realistic teen romance is depicted. Open up, Laurel. You'll be surprised at what happens.

The book is well-written. You might think that with the letters, it wouldn't flow or might read clunky - not at all. It's smooth. The writing is just right for a teenager writing letters; simple, but beautiful, and sometimes even poetic. Other reviewers have mentioned how Laurel addresses the dead geniuses in her letters, and tells them about their own lives -- this personally didn't bother me because I liked to see what details she chose to mention about their lives. It also seemed to fit well with her own character growth (seeing how the details changed over time, just as her relationships with her friends did), though I thought it bore mentioning, since other readers might not like this aspect. The one thing that I did not like about this book was how late the revelation came. At times I was bored while reading; I wanted everything to be pushed up a little, and more resolution for the end rather than an epilogue. I got teary-eyed around the big revelation (I think the genius of the writing is that it's simple enough that when the melodrama, the large thing looming in Laurel's words, comes into play, it's hard *not* to feel something), so more of that and how Laurel changes, grows stronger after dealing with her grief would have really drawn me in. All that being said, this book comes highly recommended from me.

53 comments:

  1. I like the self-discovery journey that the character goes through and how she does it, it seem like it will be a nice, touching book and I can't wait to read it! :) Thanks for the post and giveaway! :)

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  2. Heard so many amazing things about this book.. I always loved books that are told in the form/through letters, diary entries, and similar. That way, I always have that feeling of going through every bit of emotion the person writing it is going through. It sounds like emotional and poignant book, really can't wait to pick it up. :) Thanks for a chance to win it!

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  3. I like the synoposis and the book cover that interests me. Thanks for the giveaway!! :)

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  4. I've seen people reading this book before but never considered reading it until I saw Emma Watson's tweet about it. After that I read the blurb and it seems just like my type of book. Now I really want to read it.

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    1. Emma Watson tweeted about it? My respect for her just skyrocketed.

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    2. Yeah, she did! I went looking for that tweet (after this comment) too. It's always interesting to me to see which celebrities are also reading YA (though it makes that Watson would & esp. since she was in the Perks movie).

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  5. I've heard so many great things about Love Letters to the Dead. It sounds like such an awesome read!! Thanks for the giveaway!! :)

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  6. The premise of this sounds fantastic! Seems like it will be a tear jerker in the best kind of way. Thanks for the giveaway :)

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  7. I love heart wrenching contemporaries and THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER was amazing. I think I might really enjoy reading this book.

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  8. This is such a gorgeous review Christina, I've had my eye on this book for sometime now, and you know how much I love my emotional books, I will definitely be giving this book a go soon! Also I'm quite curious about this big revelation!

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    1. Yay!!! I hope it works out for you :D :D. The big revelation is big. And if you're looking for an emotional connection... hee, well, I'll let you read it for yourself :).

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  9. The author's way of tackling the issues in the book definitely makes me want to read it. I've heard such good things about the book and about her writing that I want to read it very much! Plus I definitely want to get to the emotional parts, I may not be a book crier but so many bloggers have really connected to the book that I would like to hopefully experience that too since it's not everyday that happens :) Thank you for the giveaway Christina! :D

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    1. I know what you mean, Charlotte. There are very few books that manage to hit me in the emotional way that others speak of... and I hope that when you get to the book, it'll give you what you're looking for!

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  10. The synopsis is intriguing and the cover art is beautiful!

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  11. This book sounds similar to The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. I really enjoy reading about grief and the path of acceptance and moving on. I'm really excited about it now!

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  12. Heard so many awesome things!!! Plus the cover is gorgeous!!

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  13. I finished this last week (review to come) and it killed me. In the best way. I had a slow time of getting into it, I think just because it was blurbed by SO many of my most admired authors that I was nitpicking every detail. When I allowed myself to open up (see what I did there?) it moved me near to tears. I actually did get a little bored with the details of the famous people's lives, but only because they were sometimes extensive. The shorter details were best. (And Kurt Cobain is my idol, so there's that). But I can understand why Stephen Chbosky spoke so highly of it. I may not have thrown it to the stars as much as Perks, but I got the same eerie chills and nostalgia and profound happy sadness. Your review really captured everything that I adored about this book.

    C.J.
    Sarcasm & Lemons

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    1. Hahaha, so it sounds like we had a similar reaction. (Sometimes I skimmed the famous people details, so I suppose I got less bored by that than you did :D). I'm glad you loved it -- and yes, isn't it amazing how many blurbs it's gotten? But well deserved! (And I do think I saw a blog post from you on Kurt Cobain? Heh I wonder whether I would've been more connected, too, if I knew more of the idols who she mentioned...)

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  14. I was worried about the flow of the book being letters written and I glad you addressed this in your review, thanks. Everyone is singing this book praises so I am anxious to read it now too.

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    1. I am interested on how people handle their grief. I loved Asher's book for a variety of reasons but one was how the individuals handled the situation.

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  15. I have to admit, I was never really too interested in reading this, but the buzz surrounding it over the last few weeks has definitely made me curious. Plus knowing that you liked it means that there's a good chance I will too. :) I'm glad it worked for you, Christina!

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    1. Oooh, hahaha, I hope this isn't the one book that you and I don't agree on ;). I hope you enjoy it, Sam! And it has gotten lots of buzz! Well deserved though.

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  16. This one sounds so good - I am definitely getting swept away by the buzz! I am a really big fan of epistolary novels, actually.

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  17. I read this book a while ago and fell in love.

    I definitely agree with everything you have mentioned.

    I think one of the things I loved most about this book was how Laurel thought of May as her idol. We have a tendency to view our idols as perfect people even though they aren't. We look up to them and don't see their flaws and forget that they are human just like everyone else and it was just so heartbreaking to see her come to that realization. Not only was her sister not perfect, all of these celebrities she wrote letters to weren't either and that whole 'growing up' process Laurel undergoes is painful yet beautiful to witness.

    Wonderful review!!

    Rashika @ The Social Potato

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    1. Yes, the journey from idol to fallen hero(ine) of sorts was beautiful, especially as May related to those celebrities and the parallelism was completed. I'm glad you enjoyed the book too :D

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  18. (This is Darith L)

    The novel has an interesting concept! I'd love to know what she writes in these letters to influential people in our history. I also like to know how the story actually progresses in this format. :D

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  19. I love the synopsis and book cover. I've been looking forward to reading this ever since I first heard about it.

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  20. It has made me very curious as to see what someone would write to a dead person, and makes me want to find out what happened to her and how May died. As an aside, I pinned this on my pinterest "books to read" board awhile back and it has been my most popular pin - being repinned 71 times!

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    1. Woah! Nice. My most popular pin right now is, ridiculously, a canopy bed lol, so at any rate, it's nice that you've spread the word about Love Letters to the Dead :).

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  21. Everything that I've heard about this books has been great so I guess I like the idea of using dead celebrities as basically an outlet for the stresses of life.

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  22. What interests me in this book is that since they are about love letters to the dead, I want to see how it is written, and what the letters would contain especially since they are addressed to dead people.

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  23. I have heard many great things about this book and I'd love to read it!

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  24. So many people have compared this to Perks! I've heard mixed reviews about this though. It's good to see you enjoyed it though.

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  25. The cover is gorgeous and the premise just sounds really interesting!

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  26. I've been wanting this book for so long, I remember the first thing that caught my interest was that someone said Stephen Chbosky was a sort of mentor to her and I was just like "I need this in my life!" When the cover was released I just about died from fangirling because that cover is so gorgeous and beautiful. Then there's that heartbreaking synopsis, I think I have a weakness for books that sound like they'll put me through emotional turmoil. Thank you for the giveaway, enjoy your day! :)

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  27. Oh my goodness....thank you so much for sharing this wonderful review Christina! Definitely going to have to give this one a try...I love the sound of how the story is simple, yet powerful; and the writing sounds absolutely gorgeous! I'm a huge fan of books that are emotional, and I have a feeling that I'm going to really enjoy this one! Thanks for sharing and, as always, brilliant review! <3

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

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    1. Oh, wow, thanks, Zoe!! I hope you enjoy the book! It's definitely emotional and sounds like what you're looking for :D.

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  28. I love books about music and tis one has completely different approach to the subject.
    Thank you for the giveaway.

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  29. It's rare to find an author that can discuss tough issues well at the same time as creating an intriguing story- this book does both.

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  30. When I first found out about this book I knew I HAD to read it. It sounds like it will be over-the-top emotional for me.

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  31. Well, I am a really big fan of Leila Sales's This Song Will Save Your Life so I am confident that this book wouldn't let me down as well! Also, Stephen Chbosky recommended it on his twitter account and I loved his book, TPOBAW. So I am extremely excited to read this!

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  32. I haven't read too many epistolary novels but the ones I have read were all very good. Hope this one gets added to the list!

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  33. I want to read this book because of the dead that she writes the letters to. (Kurt Cobain, Heath Ledger etc) Reading that part instantly grabbed my attention. And I want to see who else gets written a letter. I have also heard really good things about the book, which also increases my interest in reading this one. And I am interested in seeing the character grow and develop throughout the story.

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  34. Ever since hearing about this I've been interested in it. I think it's because of the epistolary format and the fact that the letters are to dead celebrities. I'm actually looking forward to reading about the lives of the people in the letters. I've read other reviews where that aspect wasn't liked and but like you I think I'd enjoy it.

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  35. I really like the concept and I love the cover.And my friend recommended to me.So I guess it's a must-read for me.

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  36. My co-blogger really loved this one and I usually love all books she does so it's a no-brainier for me. Not to mention that now I know it also has something to do with music as well. Great review and thanks for the giveaway :)

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  37. The thing that interests me most is the development of the characters. Realistic characters are so hard to create, so kudos to all authors that can and are amazing like that

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  38. I was a huge fan of This song will save your life, so seeing this book felt the same is something that really appeals to me. The fact that the author spends much time in crafting the character - especially the parents :D - is great. I always need that aspect to be flawless in contemporary, since it's not my favorite genre. I also like the way she has written this story, through letters. I'm very interesting in trying this one out.

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  39. I loved the synopsis and it just seems like an incredible book. I'm really excited to read it.

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  40. Right off the bat I fell in love with the cover and then reviews started popping up over YouTube and Goodreads that I couldn't help myself to find out more about this book.

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  41. Besides the synopsis, the excellent reviews!! It sounds wonderful.

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  42. Really just everything about it!!! I've had my eye on this for months and cannot wait to get my hands on it.

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  43. The cover of this book is gorgeous and I like the idea of writing letters to the dead. It seems like an interesting idea and a different way of dealing with feelings and whatever emotions the character is going through.

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