Posted by Andrew | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 17-01-2014
ARC provided by NetGalley
Laurel is your typical average teenage girl…well mostly. Her parent’s are divorced, her mother is now living in California for some reason, her old sister–May–died young and tragically, and she’s a new kid at the school. So…yeah typical. And for English class she has to write a letter to a dead person. Just one. And Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister May loved him and he died young…like May did. And Laurel begins to share pieces of herself in the letter. And she keeps writing and soon has a notebook full of letters to those that have died–Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more. She shares with them what its like starting high school, of finding new friends, of trying to emulate May and at the same time be herself, and of falling in love for the very first time. And as the year progresses Laurel is able to begin to share the truth that she has kept hidden for so long and to discover her own path in life.
Every generation seems to have, and to need, this type of book: “Dear Mr. Henshaw,” “Catcher in the Rye,” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” And “Love Letters to the Dead” most definitely falls into this category. It’s that book that you read, and whether you admit it out loud or not, you can recognize aspects of yourself in it. That struggle between being a kid and an adult, of fighting parents, of friends that don’t quite get you, of some secret…of some thing that is just beyond the edge of your grasp that you want to share, but you don’t know how. It’s that book that years latter will still be on reading lists and you might make fun of the words, of the strange things that they do for fun, but you recognize the people in them and can relate to them. They aren’t the cool popular kids or the stars of the sports, they are the common person. Like you. And that’s what this book is.
Told entirely through letters to the dead, Laurel begins to share with us what its like to begin anew, to be in high school, to be lost and not know what the heck your doing and of trying to figure it all out. Its that feeling, that sense, that we can all recognize, no matter what our gender maybe. We know what its like to start over and to wonder where we fit in and that first time, that very first time that we figure out what love is. You can’t help but laugh and weep as you progress through the letters. Ava has captured the very essence of humanity, not only in the letters but the characters as well. So often when you read a book like this everything is solved by the end or there’s that one perfect character that can do no wrong and is completely awesome and makes everything seem right. But that’s not the case here. Here, here you have the parents that admit they don’t no what they’re doing, that they thought about themselves over their own kid, that are just as lost as their kid. If you knew a parent like this in real life you’d want to question their sanity upon saying things like that, but be honest…what would you do in that situation? Unless you’ve been through it, you can’t say. I can’t say because I have no idea.
Laurel’s friends are just as flawed as she is. Her two best female friends, in love with each other. But they don’t always show it out of fear of what their families will think, of what other friends will think, of what might happen or could happen. It’s something that is real and recognizable because you know there are kids going through this exact same thing right this very minute. The emotions, the way these two characters express themselves, aren’t the polished perfect pitches that we hear in the movies, or those long speeches that we tell ourselves in our head, they express themselves just as we might. Fear, trepidation, honesty, stumbling over our words, but getting it out there. And Laurel’s first love, isn’t this perfect guy. Nor is he that quite guy that seems so cool and mysterious that everyone falls for that says “Hey” and girls swoon. Yes he’s quiet. Yes he seems to have his shit pulled together a little bit better than everyone else, but he isn’t perfect. He does things, he says things that he later regrets, his mom is weird…in other words he is someone you could meet outside. Even better than that…the romance isn’t the main focus of the book, nor is it perfect. Neither of them knows quite what the heck they’re doing, they’re figuring it out as they go. It’s an imperfect, awkward, teenage relationship.
This…this is one of those books that when you try to explain and when I started to review, I stumbled over my words because I want to recommend it that much. Because I want people to read this book and to understand it and cherish it as much as I have. This will be one of those books that makes “best of” lists at the end of the year, that will hopefully be nominated for awards, but more importantly it will be one of those books that 15 years from now teachers are making students read and write about, because it is that powerful.This is one of those books that you should read, no mater your age, your gender, your sexual orientation, whatever…the characters are genuine, real, and three dimensional. I give the book 5 out of 5 stars.