I was really looking forward to this one…but (oh here we go with the “buts”) it felt like a big spot of deja vu for me. Haven’t I already read this story? Wasn’t it called The Perks of Being a Wallflower?
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.
Letters to dead people! Okay that sounded morbid…but, honestly, letter-style-books are a huge favourite. Particularly if they’re written well. (I even loved Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary when I was little!) This does the letters fantastically.
Good grief. I’m sorry! But sometimes these sorts of sad books call for some gallows humour.
Writing about grief is a tricky subject. People handle it so differently! Love Letters to the Dead is about a girl losing her idolised big sister. It’s bawl worthy. I felt very emotionally involved. Laurel (our narrator) handled her grief realistically and she grew. There was no bandaid at the end, too. Thank you.
Laurel. I like a narrator I can understand and sympathise with. Characters who whine? Ugh, let me bury the book. But Laurel was fantastic. I loved reading her thoughts. She really summed up what it is to be a teenager too: half her brain is still a kid while the other half is coming out with brilliant quotes like this:
And as much as I was hiding from him, I guess part of me also always wanted Sky to see into me — to know the things that I was too scared to tell him. But we aren’t transparent. If we want someone to know us, we have to tell them stuff. (pg. 285.)
I’ve already read this book. It’s called The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephan Chbosky. I realise Stephan Chbosky was Ava Dellaira’s mentor and also endorsed this book…so obviously he doesn’t think it’s a newer version of Perks. But I couldn’t overlook the similarities. Think of Perks and just throw in a gender swap and a bigger emphasis on sister-to-sister relations.
It always, always makes me twitchy when a book is just “another version” of a popular book. Perks was the first book that actually made me cry. It’s a huge favourite! So this reason alone is why the star rating dropped.
I got very confused to the date this was set in. It wasn’t until she started a letter to Heath Ledger (who died in 2008) that I figured it was modern. But it was hard to tell. Particularly when she wore overalls to her first day of highschool. I was just….huh? Are we in the 80s or…
THEY ARE NOT “LOVE” LETTERS. Come on! That’s a little bit crazy! Laurel is writing letters to…dead people. Yes. But they’re not “I wish I could marry you” sort of letters. It’s a journal. Instead of saying “Dear Diary” she says “Dear Amelia Earhart”. I don’t get how those are considered “love letters”.
Let’s talk about what it means to be a “writer”. I am so frustrated right now! What is it with books and throwing in the “you should be a writer” to people who HAVE NEVER WRITTEN. It is dang hard to write. You don’t just wake up one day and pen a whole book. You have to practise. Laurel was always telling Sky he “could be a writer”. Let’s forget the fact he never wrote. SHE was the one writing all these letters!
This happens a lot in books (I have no idea why…authors should appreciate how hard it is to write). It leaves me going like this:
The writing is absolutely beautiful and I did have a good time reading it, but I couldn’t shake the deja vu, peoples. I prefer The Perks of Being a Wallflower and I’m not so keen on reading the same story twice.