December 2, 2014

Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Love Letters to the Dead
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Get a copy here!

Listened while reading: Hold on to Me by X Ambassador

Love Letters to the Dead is a debut young-adult novel by Ava Dellaira. As a debut novel, I must say that this book has reached beyond my expectation as a reader. I must say that I chose this book at first simply because of the interesting title and the cover that is really pretty, but once I finished I am so grateful that I’ve read such a beautiful story inside.

Love Letters to the Dead is generally a story about Laurel, a girl who is living a rough life as teenager with broken family, loss of beloved sister, and dark veil of abuse she once experienced. Unlike any other kids, Laurel comes to a teenager life without any stable adult to support her. Her mother left to California two months after her sister, May, died. Laurel lives with her dad who’s incapable of fully supporting her because he himself is still suffering from losing both her daughter and her wife that adjusting into a single parent life is way too hard for him. Her aunt Laurel lives with when she’s not with her dad is a strict religious woman who’s practically love spending more time talking about sins than being a supportive adult to an emotionally-unstable teen. Laurel spends most of her time being a quiet girl at school and a cheerful daughter around his dad. She eats her lunch alone on the fence and shyly taking a peek at the handsome mysterious boy called Sky. Until one day she found herself a group of friends who’s kind of weird and definitely not straight A-students but strangely she felt secure with them and able to talk to without worrying about the pity looks she always got when talking to other people. Despite the constant gloomy aura she got from her life at home, Laurel manages to find little happiness from her strange friends. Even though sometimes her friends got her into troubles, she is okay with that because she never feels blamed around them like what she always feels with her own parents. Laurel often blames herself for May’s dead and refuses to tell people the reason behind it. Eventually she herself was suffered and is still regularly having panic attacks whenever she encounters situation that triggers the past. Sky’s appearance in her life fills the longing feeling to be loved she feels all the time. But not only fills her life, Sky also makes her realize that secrets can’t be hidden forever, that sadness can’t be held alone forever, that she has to stop blaming herself forever.
'But we aren’t transparent. If we want someone to know us, we have to tell them stuff.'
The unique feature of this book is all the story above is not told like how usually a book is written. Love Letters to the Dead, just like the title, is a bunch of love letters to dead person Laurel used to love. Those letters were actually written firstly as an assignment for English class but Laurel poured her heart to the letters and starting to write a very personal side of her into the letter that there’s no way she could turn it in and let the teacher knows. Soon one letter becomes two then two becomes three that Laurel kept writing the letters for a month eventually. The letters are mostly addressed to her and May’s favorite singers, actress, and even to Laurel’s idol, Amelia Earhart. What makes it so good is that Ms. Ava didn’t just randomly choose the ‘dead person’ but every single story Laurel told on her letters actually has connection to the said person. I was surprised that even through the letters, the story is solid and the emotional touches are so clear that I couldn’t help crying in several parts. I really loved one letter addressed to Kurt Cobain where Laurel for the first time felt angry and mad at him for leaving in such a young age, describing the lost chances of being a father to his beautiful daughter, God that’s totally heartbreaking…

To tell the truth, I almost left this book unfinished after the first 20% part of the book. I stopped reading and called my sister to tell about this book that I had no idea where the story was actually led into and what point was being made here. Because, God, what I felt was only gloomy mood and a very down feeling that I felt like curling myself on bed unmoving all day. I personally hate a book that makes me feel gloomy and awfully down but with this book I had this expectation that there must be something behind all this miserable feeling –and I’m actually not kind of person who can leave a book unfinished forever.

And now I’m grateful I had that feeling to keep reading this book! All the miserable feeling is so worth to feel! I got so many lessons learned from this book. And I never met a book that I can relate so much with myself. Well, it’s not that I’m an abuse survivor or anything (and I have a very blessed and beautiful family, thanks God for that), but I really really loved the realization that Laurel reached by the end of writing all those letters. Here I picked my favorite line from this book:
'So maybe when we can say things, when we can write the words, when we can express how it feels, we aren’t so helpless'
God, God, it is so me! I’m not a really vocal person and sometimes I don’t feel like telling people what’s on my mind because in the end they will never fully understand what I really feel unless they experience it themselves. In the end they will just sad-smiling at us and put their hands on the back of ours as if implying that it’s okay to be sad and things will be alright. And we will smile back at them even though we know it’s not cause we just don’t want to be rude. But in this case, Laurel has Sky who’s been through a lot as well in the past so when she opened up to him, the feeling is equal…

The poem in the epilogue is so beautiful I cried a lot (and had to call my sister, again, to tell her how much I love her). I can feel how much Laurel loves her sister, May. The feeling was so real that I cried myself to sleep.

So, despite all the tears caused by this book, I’m going to say that I love this book! A lot. Reading Love Letters to the Dead is like looking back to the past when the first time I decided I love writing. Well, it’s not that I’m a writer now or what but I really love writing. And the reason behind it is clearly stated in this book. Ah, writing this review just makes me fall in love with this book all over again. I just hope that people who decide to read this book can see what I can see from this book. 

A beautifully written book with a lesson about accepting ourselves for who we are and getting over of blaming ourselves for what we’ve done.

I personally want to thanks Ms. Ava for such a beautiful book and I’m hoping to read more of hers in the future :)
'And maybe what growing up really means is knowing that you don’t have to be a character, going whichever way the story says. It’s knowing that you could be the author instead.'
Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.


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