Monday, 19 May 2014

Review: Love Letters to the Dead

Love Letters to the Dead

Publication Date:  May 1st 2014
~A copy was provided by HotKeyBooks in exchange for an honest review~

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. And she'd certainly never dream of handing them in to her teacher. She writes about what it's like going to a new high school, meeting new friends, falling in love for the first time - and how her family has shattered since May died.

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 lyrical, haunting and stunning debut from the protégé of Stephen Chbosky (THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER).


Love Letters to the Dead is as personal as it gets and for me I had a hard time detaching myself from it because in all retro respect, Laurel could've been me. Or you. Or everyone else. A lot of shit happens in this world, and by the synopsis, you don't even get half of it. And that was the shocking thing because while I was reading it, I picked up a few little hints here and there but I still wasn't expecting it.

Laurels complicated. She's alive. She's a mess, but alive. Even if she doesn't want to be. For the first half she's kind of cold and numb to things, you get the sense she's hardly there anymore because she's on auto-pilot. Her sisters dead and she's basically blocked out that night since, and she's holed up all her guilt, her grief, her anger. She's in denial, and she hates herself because she has a secret. Something she told May that night she died, something she thinks that if she hadn't, May would still be alive.

Seriously, I had so many feelings right until the end, anger, hate, disgust and those lovely tears. I don't cry easily at books, okay? (Though it does seem like it for the last couple of books I've read, I'm looking at you, We Were Liars) I am an easy crier, but it takes a lot for me to cry over books. I don't  cry over every cancer book, and I don't cry over every loss book, but with this I did. Probably because I could relate to Laurel, because everything she felt over May's death, I felt and dealt with. It's hard because when you're the one left behind, especially when you're there when it happened, it's a lot to process. A lot of things you can never understand and it's the if's and buts and blame and guilt. Dying is easy, living after that is the thing that's hard. There's also different kind of losses, you know? Loss is a universal thing, everybody feels it, but within a family, not one of you feel the same way. It's the same person, everybody's lost that same person, and while the loss is the same, the grief isn't. Nobody knows how it feels to lose a sibling than a person whose lost a sibling. The same goes for Mothers, Fathers, sons and daughters and every other. Everybody also deals with it in different ways, and you also see that in Love Letters to the Dead. Loss can sometimes bring a family closer, but it can also blow that family apart.
The writing in Love Letters to the Dead is simplistic, it's not straight up beautiful, it's not one of those ones that you just love the way it's written, but it's brutally honest and tells a story through letters that isn't happy, that isn't a lovely story. And because of that, its effective and is beautiful.

Love Letters to the Dead is not just what it says on the label, and as you start reading and finding out about things with May and later on what happened and with Laurel it is not just a novel about grief. It's a loss of innocence, a pathway that has a domino effect that ends in the person Laurel is now because of it. But, it's also about music. How it can heal you, how it can save you, how that one simple thing where nothing is guarded and all is on display, it's about how words can change you. As they did for me.
Rating: 5/5