Friday, 6 June 2014

Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Love Letters to the DeadLove Letters to the Dead

Author: Ava Dellaira
Series: --
Pages: 327
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release date: 1st May 2014

Synopsis. (Goodreads) 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.

Review: 4 out of 5 stars

I had been really curious about Love Letter to the Dead from the very moment I glimpsed the cover and read the intriguing synopsis and I’m really pleased to say it is a book that didn’t disappoint.

Love Letters to the Dead is written in a series of letters to deceased characters, musicians, actors etc. such as Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Jim Morrison and Heath Ledger to name a few. 

Laurel is a character swamped with pain and guilt believing that her sister died because of her. She has started a new school and her English assignment is to write a letter to a dead person, she starts with Kurt Cobain since he was her dead sister May’s favourite musician, as the book progresses we learn more about Laurel’s family life, her feelings of hurt and betrayal and it becomes a cathartic way for her to deal with her loss.

Some parts were extremely poignant but other parts came across as quite juvenile, there was a lot of angst and heart-break, I felt extremely sorry for Laurel and what she has been through at such a young age, her family more or less fell apart when her sister died.

I felt Love Letters to the Dead was more of a character driven book, it’s a coming of age story as we join Laurel in her journey to find peace; she’s a character who didn’t feel she belonged so seeing her struggles and watching her grow with the help of some amazing side characters was wonderful, Laurel was a character you couldn’t help by like and feel sympathy for.

The writing is beautifully detailed and compassionate, I felt like I was reading a personal diary about how much Laurel truly missed and admired her sister. It was a refreshing read and one I enjoyed.

Thank you to Hot Key Books for providing me with a copy of Love Letters to the Dead.

About the author (Goodreads): I was born in Los Angeles. One of my first memories is of looking out the window of the Cadillac that my family drove across the desert when we moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is where I grew up, and where my sister and I spent countless summer afternoons making fairy potions, battling evil witches, and playing other imaginary games that probably contributed to my proclivity to make up stories. My first memory of writing is as a 2nd grader. I had been assigned to write a poem about the things I liked and why. I started out pretty unassumingly: “I like rainbows because they are pretty. I like kittens because they are soft.” And then I wrote, “I like my Mom—” but I couldn’t come up with the end of the sentence. I remember it vividly because it was my first awareness of that space between a feeling, and the language that we have to name it. No words seemed big enough. I thought about all of the things that I loved about her, all of the fun stuff we did together, and finally I settled on, “I like my Mom because she gave birth to me.” That just seemed the most basic. It was, in part, her beautiful life and sudden, untimely death (just after I had graduated college) that inspired me to write this book. After a lot of growing up (stories for another time), I went to college at the University of Chicago, and then received my MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where I lived on the bottom floor of a farm house once occupied by Kurt Vonnegut (how cool is that?!) and studied poetry. After graduating from Iowa, I moved to Los Angeles with aspirations of becoming a screenwriter, and had the good fortune to get a job working for Stephen Chbosky. When I gave him some of my writing, he said, “I think you should write a novel.” The idea had actually never occurred to me before. But that night, on my drive home, I was staring absently at the half-full moon while waiting for a red like to change, and the title popped into my head:. Love Letters to the Dead. I started writing the book that night. Now I live in Santa Monica, in an apartment the size of a shoebox close to the beach. Running, walking, or riding my bike by it are some of my favorite activities. My windows are almost always open, even in the winter. (Cheers to Southern California!) I also love going the farmers market and buying myself flowers, binge watching TV, and going to movies (where I am always the one crunching the popcorn during the supposed- to-be-quiet moment). I don’t have a dog but I hope to one day very soon. I love spending time with my boyfriend and with my wonderful family. I visit New Mexico as often as I can (I’m addicted to its wide-open endless skies). Sometimes I drive home from work and still feel astonished by the shock of blue water ahead of me as I come over the hill, and I feel so grateful that I am here. That’s how I also feel about publishing my first book, and I am profoundly grateful to you for reading it. Ava Dellaira is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a Truman Capote Fellow. She grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago. She believes this book began when she bought her second album ever—Nirvana’s In Utero—which she listened to on repeat while filling the pages of her journal. She currently lives in Santa Monica, California, where she works in the film industry and is writing her second novel.


  1. Oh I love character driven reads so this sounds perfect for me!

    Thanks for the great review, I'm glad you liked this one!

    1. Thanks Alexa :-) I'm a big fan of character driven books too, this was done well.

  2. Gosh dang it! I can't get a read on this book, I was so tempted to read it but reviews are all over the place. I think I would love the writing and the letters to some of the deceased, but the juvenile parts and the drama deter me. Sigh...

    1. The reviews have been quite mixed - I thought it was quite juvenile but I still enjoyed it, the format was interesting and I loved watched Laurel's growth and her soul searching; it is a very quick read.

  3. I enjoyed this book pretty well but the juvenile bits annoyed me and really it was just TOO dark. Like there weren't really ANY happy moments or positive things. I guess the romance but that was kind of messed up too. But I still enjoyed it, just had a few issues.

    1. I agree Candace, I enjoyed it despite the things you mentioned. You couldn't help but hope for a bit of happiness for the MC; her situation was tough.


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