Love Letters to the Dead

Love Letters to the Dead

Love Letters to the Dead

by Ava Dellaira

Genre: YA Contemporary
Published: April 1st, 2014
by Farrar, Straus and 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.


Author Ava Dellaira’s debut novel Love Letters to the Dead is a poignant and beautiful contemporary novel. While I didn’t quite enjoy it as much as I would have hoped and as much as the hype led me to believe, it was certainly a work of art in itself.

When Laurel’s English teacher assigns the class to write a letter to someone dead, Laurel fills her notebook with stories from her life – ranging from starting high school, meeting and making new friends, and falling in love for the first time. But can these letters overpower the grief she’s experiencing from her sister’s death?

Laurel is going through quite a tough time during the course of this story. Her faults, her fears, her passions – they all felt real. Her determination and innocence was something that I really enjoyed about her; and her optimism and kindness even when she was going through such a grim time makes it almost impossible for you not to like her.

I think if there’s one critique I had with Love Letters to the Dead it involves the pacing. I felt that the pacing was too slow, and that nothing especially noteworthy happened until approximately page 175. I caught myself skimming occasional paragraphs up until that point, and I feel it would have helped if there was a little less focus on the romance and the beautiful prose, and more on the storyline.

All in all, this is a beautiful story. It’s not about grief as you may expect – although that’s certainly part of it, but not the main focus – but rather about healing, about finding yourself and the true power of friendship and words. It’s about falling in love. It’s about delicate family relationships. And it’s about how bonds between siblings are some of the most powerful things we have.

What I told you about saving people isn’t true. You might think it is, because you might want someone else to save you, or you might want to save someone so badly. But no one else can save you, not really. Not from yourself.


53 thoughts on “Love Letters to the Dead

  1. Sorry for the slow pace, but this sounds like a great story overall. I’m excited that the characters are so well done, since that’s often a favorite aspect of mine in contemporary novels. I bought this one the week it came out; just need to find time to read it!

    1. Thanks Lauren! Yeah, the slow pace was a bit of a downfall, but I think everything else was so good that I was able to let go of that a bit. 😀 And yes, I agree! Well-developed characters rock! 😀 I’ll definitely be on the lookout for your review – I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! <3

  2. I had removed this one from my TBR after reading a few reviews about how dark and emotionally draining it was but you’ve really made me want to read it again. The characters all sounds so well developed, I love when an author creates secondary characters you love just as much if not more than the main ones. Fabulous review!! =)

    1. It’s definitely dark and emotionally draining, but, on the other hand, it’s a journey about remembering what you have and overcoming grief, so it can go either way. 😀 I’m glad you’re interested in it again though! I agree – it’s awesome when supporting characters feel like main characters! Thank you!

  3. I have a friend who wasn’t quite mixed with this one so I’m glad it wasn’t the same for you. It sounds so intense, it’s always interesting to have a book like that. thanks for the review.

    1. I can definitely see how people might have mixed reactions on this one. If you don’t click with it, it’s one of those books that might really annoy you, but if you connect to it right off the bat, it’s beautiful and heartbreaking. It’s definitely intense! 😉 Thank you for the lovely comment!

  4. At first when I read the title of the book, my first reaction was, I don’t think I would enjoy a book with this title, but after reading your fabulous review I now want to read it and soon. I found this review of this book was one of your very best reviews, so very well written. Thanks!

  5. This one sounds like a really intense read and i’ve heard so many good things about it and i’m happy you enjoyed it (even if the hype didn’t lead you to love it as much as you thought you were going too!)
    I’m okay with the pacing being a bit slow if the over all story is done well and it’s message is clear by the end and it seems like that’s the case with Love Letters to The dead so i can’t wait to read it! Great review
    Lily @ Lilysbookblog

    1. It’s definitely intense Lily – and even though it wasn’t perfect, it was still really enjoyable! 😀 Yeah, I’m the same. If everything else in the book turns out to be amazing and there’s just one minor flaw (like the pacing for this one), I’m usually able to overlook that. Thank you!

  6. Pacing can seriously kill a book. Even if everything else was amazing, slow pacing almost always does in me. Although I may have more patience if I knowing going into the book (such happened with the Night Circus) so I may just give this a shot! You’ve definitely sold me on the characters 😀 It makes me so happy when the secondary characters are just as developed as the main ones.

    1. Yeah, it definitely can. 🙁 Glad you’re still going to give it a shot though! I know…it’s always so exciting to have such amazing characters!

  7. The eerily realistic cast of characters almost makes me want to push through my block on books involving the death of siblings, but I just can’t. I’m glad you enjoyed this, and I’m sure it’s as beautiful as you say, but there are like 3 or 4 premises that destroy me if they show up in a book that I’m reading, and this is one of them.

    Lovely review, Zoe!

    1. Jessica, I don’t blame you at all. This is definitely a book that can hit close to home for some people, and if this is one of the premises that has the potential to destroy you, I’d definitely give this one a miss, even if it does have such great reviews.

      Thank you!

    1. Thanks Jeann! I’ll definitely be on the lookout for your review – I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! 😀 And yes! Flawed characters are always the best because they’re easier to connect with!

  8. Seriously, Zoe, this is a gorgeous review <3 I'm glad this was such a touching book for you. It's genuinely been on my TBR for God knows how long, but I keep pushing it back for other reads. Apparently I've been a total donut for doing that!

    One of the last books I read (The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows) had the same pacing issue. The first couple of hundred pages or so were quite slow-moving, and things didn't pick up speed until halfway through. Sometimes it's worth it though – the wait – because once books like these find their footing, they're normally HOLY COW kinda good.

    1. Aww… thank you Allie! You just made my day! <3 It's definitely touching. I completely understand pushing it back for other books, but definitely give it a try if you have time! 😉

      I saw your review and I absolutely agree. It's usually worth the wait, but sometimes it's just so hard to be patient. But, yes, once they find their footing, they're "blow-me-away" kinds of reads!

  9. This book truly made me cry, and I think it’s because I remember my own grief. I don’t think I’ve completely healed after my Grandma died last year. We were close. This book just reminded me of how I felt like, and how I wrote on my diary, pretending I was writing to my grandmother. Anyway, I know that this book will touch anyone who would read it, as it did you. Lovely review, Zoe!

    1. Oh my goodness Dre! I’m so sorry about your Grandma. It’s always horrible losing someone so close to you. If you need to talk to anyone about it, always feel free to DM me, okay? <3

      It's definitely touching! Thank you!

  10. Awwww, this must be one of the most heartfelt reviews of this book that I’ve come across. You made me teary-eyed a bit and I haven’t even read the book yet so I don’t really know the context 🙂 Thank you for your insights, Zoe. This is probably the review that REALLY convinced me to read Love Letters to the Dead, as soon as I can. Awesome review!

    1. Aww…thanks Faye! You just made my day!
      Thank you for always leave the sweetest comments! <3
      Glad I convinced you! I'll definitely be on the lookout for your review!

  11. I liked the letter format of this book, i thought it was very unique I have to admit it caught me off guard. I wish my book had not expired before coming out 🙁 but thus life. I will have to catch up with the rest of it through the library.

    1. The letter format was really unique, wasn’t it? Glad you liked the part of it you read so far! Hopefully you can find it at the library and finish it! xD

  12. This sounds really compelling with great characters. I love a good character driven story. The emotional/dark tone of this one is also making me want to read it as I generally love those kinds of books. Yeah I love pain or something >.<

    1. It is DEFINITELY compelling and character-driven, which is nice because there seem to be less and less of those releasing in the YA genre right now. I love a dark book once in a while as well, so you’re not alone – haha!

  13. This definitely does sound like a great story! I feel like it’s so unique because they’re writing letters to the dead in order to deal with their own grief and struggles and there’s something kind of poetic in that I think 🙂 And I love the idea of fresh characters that all receive special attention so that none of them are stereotypes!

    1. It’s definitely a great concept, isn’t it? And certainly poetic! (Actually, if I’m not mistaken, I think Ava went to college to get her Master’s Degree in poetry). Yes! Well-developed, non-stereotypical characters for the win! 😀

  14. I’ve had my eye on this book for a while so it’s great to hear that you enjoyed it! The idea of writing letters to the dead is certainly very intriguing. Thank you so much for writing this review! I think it’s one of the most in-depth reviews I’ve read for this book and now, I’m really so much more excited to pick this one up!

    1. It is quite the unique concept, isn’t it?
      No problem! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment! 😀
      Glad it sounds up your alley Annie!

  15. I’m reading this one right now c: Along with a bunch of other books, I honestly don’t even really know what I’m doing right now honestly. Lol, I’m glad you enjoyed this one ^.^

    I’m not very far in so far, but I can already tell how emotionally poignant it really is. I feel like almost every word packs a punch, especially the ones involving May. I’ve just been introduced to the side characters and they do seem quite intriguing.

    Lovely review <33 This book really had an effect on you, and this review definitely showcases that.

    1. LOL…haha! 😉 I’ll definitely be on the lookout for your review though!

      I feel like almost every word packs a punch, especially the ones involving May.” That’s EXACTLY how I felt while reading. Ava is such a poetic and powerful writer, isn’t she?

      Thank you Larissa! <3

    1. Thank you Bieke! I was concerned about the letter form too, but it turned out to be really well done. Glad it sounds intriguing! Can’t wait to see what you think! 😀

    1. Wait…Emma Watson tweeted about it? God…I’m so out of the loop – LOL! Glad you’re excited for it though!

  16. Oh, this book. It’s one of my favorite reads from 2014 so far! It was so beautiful and heartbreaking. It took a while for me to get into it, but by the end… sobbing. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it as much due to the hype, but I completely agree with you in that this is a beautiful, beautiful story.

    Great review <33

    1. It is SO beautiful and heartbreaking! It’s kind of hard to get into, but once you’re engrossed in the story…oh gosh…it’s just so beautiful! Thanks Celine! It was still pretty enjoyable, so that’s exciting! 😀 Thank you! So glad you enjoyed this one as much as I did! <3

  17. This books sounds like a tear-jerker. I don’t think I’m emotionally ready for another tear-jerker yet! But I’ve heard many wonderful things about Love Letter to the Dead. I love the fact that the author can create such poignant and realistic characters. For me, regardless of plot, if I enjoy the characters then I can soldier on through a book. I’m looking forward to picking this book up some day, and reading the beautiful prose. I can’t wait to meet Laurel and May and all the supporting characters. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Zoe xx

    1. It is DEFINITELY a wonderful tear-jerker! It is definitely a good sign when an author creates such 3D characters, right? 😀 I’m the same way. Even though the slow pacing was a tad annoying, everything else was pretty darn amazing, so it didn’t bother me much. 😀

      Thank you for the lovely comment Joy! So glad it sounds intriguing! 😀

  18. I have had such high hopes for this book, so I’m thrilled that Dellaira delivered such a gorgeous read! May 1st needs to get here sooner, so that I get my hands on this pretty! 🙂 Gorgeous review! 🙂

  19. Okay, these characters just sound super awesome. I need to read this! Everyone has been raving about it. I’m not sure about the pacing, though, since slow books could easily bore me. Anyway, definitely picking up a copy when it becomes available in our bookstore!

    1. They are! 😀
      It’s definitely gotten a lot of hype, but it’s all worth it – even the slow pacing at the beginning can be overlooked by the awesomeness of the rest of the book! 😀
      Yeah! Hope you enjoy it!

  20. I like the sound of this one excerpt for the pacing. I’ll have to check to see what the total page count is, because if 175 is the half-way mark, then I’ll pass. If not, I’ll add it to the pile. Thanks!

    1. The pacing was really the only thing I disliked as well. 😀

      And BTW the page count is 323, so it’s just under the halfway mark by a little bit. Hopefully that doesn’t keep you from reading it though because everything else is so wonderfully done that it’s almost easy to overlook the pacing issue.

      Thank you Carmel! You always leave the sweetest comments! <3

    1. Definitely intense and sad!
      Thank you for always leaving such lovely comments Laura! You never fail to make my day! 😀

  21. Amazing review Zoe. <3 Thank you so much for being honest. I did enjoy this book as well. But huh. I didn't like May that much (A) but I do get why you did 😀 She was an awesome character. But yess. I do agree with you about the pacing, now that I think about it ;p it was a little bit boring :p but still enjoyed it 🙂 Also agree that the book was beautiful. It was pretty awesome 🙂
    Thank you so much for commenting on my blog. <3
    Love, Carina @ Carina’s Books

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