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.
This book was… so interesting to me. I love the idea, an entire book composed solely of letters to dead people, but was worried about whether or not the author would be able to convey emotion, character progression, and all that good stuff using only that format. Not many people could do this. Ava Dellaira, however, did it with such a beautiful, whimsical air that I felt I was completely enraptured in the story. Page after page was turned, and I felt my heart breaking even more for Laurel, and for her friends and father and Aunt, the more pages I turned.
Laurel has been through so much, not only losing her sister but basically her mother as well. I mean, what kind of mother just runs off and leaves the only child she has left? Yes, she lost a daughter, but so did her ex-husband and her other daughter(Laurel, of course)lost a sister. Anyways, besides all of that, Laurel was keeping so many secrets that I’m surprised her poor little head didn’t explode. She is just…just such a gem of a character. At times, I find myself starting to be uncertain as to whether or not I liked her, but then I stop and think–considering what she’d been through– how would I react to similar situations? You know what? I don’t really know, because I didn’t lose my childhood the way Laurel did. There are times when I had to remind myself: this girl is just fourteen years old! She had such a mature voice and it made her seem years older, then at times she would seem so, so young.
To the book as a whole: It had me laughing and crying and smiling and aching for the characters inside it. There literally is a whirlwind of emotion inside each letter, and of the few people she wrote to that I hadn’t heard of(I know of most of her letters recipients), it made me want to look them up and learn more about them. This review is so hard to write, as I’m having so much trouble conveying how much I really really loved this book. I especially enjoyed how each event from her past was a mystery to you up until just the right moments, it made the book flow in just the right manner.
I would recommend this book to so many people, especially those that have been through difficult times themselves, or are trying to understand someone who has. I don’t know where Ava Dellaira did her research, but the way she conveyed Laurel as she is going through the process of understanding her past so she can begin to heal is absolutely spot on. There is a genuineness to each and every character, no one in the story is perfect and that makes it perfect to me. I feel like so many books today make the world out to seem that some people are perfect, and we all know that no one is. So, when a book doesn’t buy into that and “keeps it real,” I almost always fall in love with it. If you want a story where you feel like you are reading about real actual people, this one is it.
I look forward to reading more from this author in the future as she has a style of writing that I doubt I could ever tire of. Simply put, I loved this novel.
*I received this book in exchange for an honest review via the publisher/Netgalley. This in no way affected my review.*