Thursday, July 10, 2014

Baring One’s Soul: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Just the Facts:

Overall Rating: 4 Stars

Addiction Level:  I ignored the hubby and puppies until I was finished. I almost stayed up all night!

Dystopia Factor:  Eh! It's normal life.


I picked up Love Letters to the Dead on a whim.  The cover and story line enticed me, so the book jumped in my cart. 

On the first day of high school, Laurel’s English teacher asks students to write a letter to a dead person.  Laurel does the assignment but does not turn it in.  Instead she keeps a journal of all the letters she has written…to many dead people.

This was an interesting way to learn about Laurel, her family, her sister’s death, her new life, and friendships.  For the most part I thought the prose style was well-done.  There were a few moments when she told the dead people what they had done that bothered me.  (I know it was for the benefit of readers who did not know whom she was referring to.)  Sometimes she said, remember when…I thought…  I liked this approach better.

What I liked:

  • The truth that grief is all-consuming.  Laurel lost her sister May and was unable to discuss it or think about it.  This book shows the value of friends and family helping you through a tough situation, but sometimes professional help is needed.  When my mom died I went to grief counseling, and it helped a great deal.  I was able to sort out my feelings and see the bigger picture.
  • The raw truth of divorce.  Divorce is awful.  I am not sure anyone really knows how to deal with it, but children suffer more than parents realize.  May tries to make up for her mother’s absence and fails miserably.  Dellaira does not hide or sugarcoat this reality.
  • The reality of Laurel’s mother abandoning her.  Yes, Laurel’s mother was devastated by May’s death but so was the rest of the family.  Selfishly Mom left town to chase after her dreams and grieve.  Dellaira brings to light that Mom’s leaving was abandonment.  Again, no sugarcoating.
  • The importance of taking care of one’s self.  To avoid life people numbed themselves and found other things to busy themselves with.  Because they neglected themselves (and lack of parental support) they got themselves into dangerous situations.
  • The importance of small gestures.  As a teacher I try to know every one of my students, but there is just not enough time or enough of me.  As a result I try to be kind and respectful to all.  Though Laurel’s interaction with her English teacher is brief, the teacher managed to make small impact.  I hope that I, too, positively impact my own students. 

What I disliked:

  • Absence of parents.  I know this is a common young adult trope, but I really wanted all the parents to be more involved.  Perhaps it would not be a very good story if parents were involved?  Although, their absence just reinforces the need to deal with life, grief, and one’s self.  There is a great need for positive parental influence.  Towards the end each set of parents begins to redeem themselves.
  • Partying lifestyle.  Because I was a child who did not party, drink, or do drugs, I do not understand the appeal.  As an adult, I see the futility of it.  While I do not approve of the behavior, the characters came from broken situations and needed to numb themselves.  While it is implicit that such behaviors do not have positive consequences, I wish that were a little more explicit.  Perhaps more parent involvement sooner would have curbed some of this.

Overall I enjoyed Love Letters to the Dead.  It was an enjoyable read, and I look forward to new books from Dellaira.

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