Published by: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
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.