December 4, 2014

Thursday Oldie: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

So as you guys know, I just moved here. And that means my old blog now lies abandoned... alongside all my old reviews. But because I feel like some of them don't deserve such an awful treatment, I'm going to slowly move my favorite reviews here, especially if my opinion differs than Megs. (though some editing may occur, as I'm a little OCD about my reviews, and the older they originally are, the more likely I am to have things I want to rephrase). 

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Source: hardcover version
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Publication Date: Apr 1, 2014
Age Genre: Young Adult
Originally published: May 26, 2014
Embrace the Forbidden
What if there were teens whose lives literally depended on being bad influences?
This is the reality for sons and daughters of fallen angels.
Tenderhearted Southern girl Anna Whitt was born with the sixth sense to see and feel emotions of other people. She's aware of a struggle within herself, an inexplicable pull toward danger, but it isn't until she turns sixteen and meets the alluring Kaidan Rowe that she discovers her terrifying heritage and her willpower is put to the test. He's the boy your daddy warned you about. If only someone had warned Anna.
Forced to face her destiny, will Anna embrace her halo or her horns?

This week, I felt like bringing back a not so old oldie of one of the best books I've read in 2014.
Love Letters to the Dead is a poignant, touching, beautiful story of coming to terms with death and growing up. Of finding yourself among the wreckage and accepting that person on all her faults--even coming to love her. To love yourself.

For me, this is one of those books I'll recommend in a heartbeat - no matter what type of books you like.

Laurel, the teenage girl telling the story, is trying to deal with her sister's death. She does so by writing... to dead people. About everything that happens to her, and everything that has happened in the past. May, Laurel's sister, was almost a part of Laurel. She was so closely tied to Laurel's identity, to who Laurel wanted to be, that without her, Laurel is not sure who she is anymore.

Her journey is an emotional one. One that will make you emotional on the way. She grows tremendously throughout the book, to the point where she stops trying to be someone else and just becomes herself. And herself is good enough. Herself, to me at least, was beautiful.
"You learned right away that applause sound like Love"
-- Love Letters to the Dead, p. 9
And not just by who she is, but by how she thinks and how she writes, which is - in short - gorgeous. Laurel's thoughts are so beautiful and often laced with such stunning poetry. From the first pages I found myself stopping to frame a quote in my mind. Then, eventually, I went and made sure I had a notebook right there on the bed so I could just write them all down. One day, when I own my own house and be free to decorate it, I would hang up quotes from books on the walls. And a good few of them will be from this book.
"Like a boat swimming over the dark asphalt surface of the earth"
-- Love Letters to the Dead, p. 9
Side note: we learn a lot about those dead people through her letters, which I found completely endearing. I now know a lot about artists and famous figures that I never did before!

Aside for Laurel herself, we've got a great supporting cast, and quite a few interesting side stories.

First, we've got Natalie and Hannah, Laurel's new friends. Both these girls are cool and wild, but I admit - at first I wasn't too sure about them! I mean, they made Laurel skip school, drink, flash people... It all seemed to me so far away from my own high school experience - and such a bad influence! But then we stopped this shallow introduction, and moved on to their real story - and that one I loved. Adored even. It's one of those side stories you eagerly wait to see what happens next with.
"I think Hannah must be afraid like I get afraid, the way I did when I heard the river yesterday, the way I do when I don't even know what the shadow is, but I feel it breathing."
--Love Letters to the Dead, p.99
Then there were Tristan and Kirsten. This is the bad boy x good girl love story... only we come into the story after he's been converted into a one gal kind of guy. And I did love them. I kind of want a book just for them, for what happens after this story.

And then, there's Sky. Laurel's love interest, and I really liked him. I don't think I got to know all of him, himself, deeply, because we didn't get to hear much of his past, but we did get to know the person he is - kind, caring, a bit messed up. However, maybe contrary to popular belief, the romance is not a huge part of the book, it's not the crux of it. It's something that accompanies the story, something that is tied in it and empowers it. It's part of how Laurel learns to like herself, but it's not the main story line and it doesn't overpower the actual story. I heart it!
"If beauty is truth, and truth is beauty, they are defined by each other, so how do we know the meaning of either?"
--Love Letters to the Dead, p. 110
And the last is... May, herself. While she is dead, May is very much a living character in the story. And her story is a sad and tragic one, but also one I loved reading about, despite everything.

This is one of these stories that I loved enough to become extremely sad when I see people not like it. It's a book that demands to be felt, and when it's not... it makes me really sad. Like, really.


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