Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
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.
I know I wrote letters to people with no address on this earth, I know that you are dead. But I hear you. I hear all of you. We were here. Our lives matter.
I really have no idea what to say about Love Letters to the Dead. It was amazing, that's for sure. It touched me - I guess that's just one way to put it.
I loved the letter format that it was written in. It was kind of magical - the idea of writing letter after letter to dead people is great to me - I always kind of wondered if they could hear/see us, you know? The letters were very conversational, but they still had a distinct "this-is-a-letter" feel to them. It was all very surreal.
The entire book had a very depressed lilt to it - a kind of feeling that something very bad had happened. I liked that. I liked it a lot! I also liked that Laurel gave us a bit of background information on everyone that she wrote to - by just kind of slipping it in there, by saying that she understood why they did something. That was great. I didn't know some of the people that Laurel wrote to, but the ones that I knew far outnumbered the ones that I didn't. Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin and Heath Ledger were just a few of the best ones. It was cool, some of the things that she wrote to the people that she thought would understand.
Let's get to the best part, though. Laurel. She was an amazing, true to life, fleshed out character. She's depressed and it's obvious, she's innocent and naive, but she's also self-conscious and sort of funny. She is who she is, and even if she's not exactly comfortable with herself - she was a real person. I loved that about her.
She dealt with grief in such a real and unique way, and even though she sometimes made bad decisions, I found that her growth throughout Love Letters to the Dead was absolutely fantastic.
I enjoyed the happy moments in this book. They're few and far between, but they're there none the less, and they make the book just a little bit lighter. Love Letters to the Dead really handles a lot of subjects, from depression to molestation to drug use, and I think that it handled them all well.
The writing was beautiful. I don't think that the prose could have been any better. All in all, Love Letters to the Dead really is a good book. I'd recommend it to people who like issue books.