Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Love Letters to the Dead is about Laurel, a girl who is starting high school. Her sister died that summer in a dubious accident, and Laurel's life is in upheaval -- her mother moved away, she spends half her time with her dad and half her time with her uncle. She receives an assignment to write a letter to someone who is dead, and it evolves into a notebook full of her musings to the likes of John Keats, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, and Amelia Earhart.

Okay, there is a positive blurb by Stephen Chbosky on the cover of the book. If you squint, you can see it right there. But I will say that this entire book felt like a rewrite of Perks of Being a Wallflower. Letters to a silent audience. A friend who is in an LGBT relationship with someone else who wants it to be kept quiet. An important relationship ended by death. A past history of abuse. Becoming good friends as a freshman with a group of seniors. A heavy interest in musicians. A great relationship with an English teacher. And okay, some of that is just high school. But it was pretty clear that there was some strong inspiration in Love Letters for the Dead by Perks, and it bothered me a little. There were just two many checkpoints that were similar. Still, Stephen Chbosky seems to be okay with it, so who am I to judge?

Other than the too-blatant (for me) tributes to Perks, Love Letters to the Dead was well-written, moving, and difficult to put down. Laurel reveals the secrets of the circumstances surrounding her sister's death very slowly, which kept me thoroughly invested until the end of the book. Dellaira's prose is elegant and poignant. There is also a sweet romance that defies some of the common tropes of YA literature. All in all this is a strong book -- it captures (a greater than normal share of) the sadness of growing up and moving through adolescence as well as the buoyant joy of first love, friendship and music. (You know, kind of like Perks of Being a Wallflower).

3.75 stars

Warnings: Scenes of sexual abuse, language, some intense make out scenes, thematic material


  1. I thought there was a lot in this book that was done well, and I love the overarching theme of it: recovery through letters, basically. But I thought it erred in pretty major ways, too, and I ended up being more disappointed than anything else.

  2. It sounds quite good and since I haven't read The Perks of Being of Wallflower maybe I'll enjoy it more...of course than when I read TPOBAW I'll dislike IT...Hmmm, what to do? If you had to pick just one what one would you have read?


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