Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

I don’t remember where I saw Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira…Maybe Goodreads. There was a blurb about how good it was and then a description of what it was about.

Basically it’s about a girl who gets an English assignment to write a letter to a dead person. She spends the rest of the school year writing letters to various dead people whom she feels she connects to and through these letters we see her life and her feelings. She comes to terms with the death of her sister, who her sister was, and her own life.

I was curious so I put it on hold at my library (there was a short queue) and proceeded to forget all about it as I usually do with books I put on hold.

Although the book’s timing wasn’t the most convenient when it became available, I did my duty and started reading it.

And finished it near midnight of the same day.

I’m not a particularly fast reader but the book isn’t difficult reading. Still, I should’ve been at it a couple times buuuuut…I skimmed through a bunch of it.

It’s a good book. So why did I skim through a lot of it? Because it goes over a lot of those dead people’s lives. Laurel, the character we’re following, is writing to the dead people and will describe their own lives to them as she muses over it and compares their lives to hers. I don’t care about their lives. I care about hers. Though it was interesting to learn about Judy Garland’s and River Phoenix’s childhoods.

Love Letters is well-written and interesting. The title is misleading – they’re not “love” letters, just letters. I can hear the character’s voice and I understand her pain. It’s not 2D like other YA 1st person narratives are these days. The author teases you with enticing tidbits about Laurel’s past and her sister, May.

That’s what kept me reading when I got fed up with the idiocy of teenagers in the beginning – I wanted to know what happened to May and Laurel before May died. I wanted to know how she died.

Why was I reading a YA novel if I just said teenagers are idiots? Because I usually like YA books. Yes, teens are stupid, hormone-driven, and melodramatic. I was a teenager too. I am not exempt from my opinion. I don’t think badly of most teens because I remember what it was like. I laugh at myself when I remember how I used to think. Most of them will grow out of it and will hopefully laugh at themselves later in life.

I hope the book didn’t reflect real life though. I know I had a sheltered childhood but I seriously hope I wasn’t THAT sheltered. For 14 and 15-year-olds to be engaging in the type of behavior Dellaira described…Well, it’s disturbing. I’m not talking so much about Laurel though I didn’t like her decisions either. That’s neither here nor there. It’s some of the people she knew whom I seriously frowned over. Mainly one person who wasn’t even her friend. It’s frightening to think that his behavior is based off of reality. At 14 and 15 years old? Jeez… Disturbing.

Anyway, it all made for an interesting book.

Here’s where I get negative.

The style of having the book written in letters to famous dead people is interesting but it could just as well have been written through diary entries. That’s what these letters really are – a diary. It’s like the author was trying to get through on a technicality. “I’m not doing that diary technique that’s poo-pooed on; they’re letters to dead people.”

Hmm. I’m not buying it. It’s a diary. Just instead of saying “Dear Diary,” she’s saying “Dear Janis Joplin.”

Being able to remember the details and conversations of the day is impossible. Unless she has a robotic memory that records events and conversations of the day, it’s unbelievable that she’d be able to write it all down word for word, action for action. Even small actions. And remembering it all when she’s super drunk or drugged? Nope, ain’t happenin’. I don’t buy it.

For me this means the diary-style, sorry, letter-style the writer adopted doesn’t work. It’s not realistic.

Now we get to the meat of my dislike. I said I liked the book. I did. It was a good book. It kept me reading till midnight when I usually go to bed at 9-10pm and it made me cry, feel worry, shock, pity, etc more than once. But I also didn’t like it because the idea wasn’t original.

HUGE point against the book for me. Nothing about it was original.

I have never read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, but I have seen the movie and people said it was a good adaptation. I’m focusing on the story anyway and it’ll be the roughly the same in book or movie. That’s the problem here – Love Letters is exactly like Perks. I’m not saying all the details are the same, but it’s close enough that it made me pause early on in my reading.

How could Chbosky, who praises the book and its author, condone her blatant copying? Point out all the details you want and argue that they’re different, it doesn’t matter. I was so struck by the similarities that I kept thinking back to Perks trying to compare relationships so I could find a connection between the two that would show me Love Letters was a prequel to Perks. That would have made it okay though in that case it should have been mentioned. But, no, I couldn’t find any sign of its being a prequel. Instead, I just see an unoriginal idea practically stolen from someone Dellaira calls a “friend and mentor.” From what I’ve heard, the two books are even told in the same style – through letters.

Read it? What are your thoughts?

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About Katie St. John-Shin

I believe in living life and not letting it pass you by. I mean, come on, if you really want to do something but don't have the courage to do it so you let the opportunity disappear, you may regret it for the rest of your life. How can you know what you're capable of unless you go for it? Like every writer, I naturally plan on becoming a world-famous writer. I love reading, writing, fitness, coffee, watching my favorite movies/shows, listening to music, and trying new things even if they're sometimes terrifying. I'm a stay-at-home mom, a writer, and a POP Pilates instructor. I didn't think I'd succeed at that last one but I did it! I confronted my fears, dealt with things I didn't want to deal with, and completed the training! POP Pilates classes are coming soon to mid-Nebraska!
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