Ava Dellaira's novel, Love Letters to the Dead, kept me up reading way past my bedtime. Less than half-way through the book, I was very invested in the main character and her relationship with the many dead celebrities to whom she writes.
This novel centers around Laurel, a fresh(woman) in high school trying to find her place after the death of her older sister May. In an assignment-turned-personal journal for English class, Laurel writes letters to people like Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Judy Garland, Amelia Earhart, and more. At first, since these people are kind of old school, I thought that the novel was set in the late 80s, early 90s. However, Laurel also writes to Amy Winehouse and Heath Ledger, bringing the novel right into the present time, to the mid-2000s at least.
What do all of these people have in common? They're all dead and they all tried to live their lives outside of the restrictions of their own social constraints. We learn that their struggles are a perfect foil for the disturbing events of May and Laurel's lives.
Because of this, the format of letter-writing is powerful and moving in this book. There are books like Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries where people use journal entries to tell a story. While this book is similar to that, Laurel uses the letters as little prayers to the spirits of the dead, revealing more and more to us readers as we go. The letters also read more like personal essays, making the plot points in the book feel less clichéd and more relevant to real life.
Not only do the letters work very well, Laurel's voice is extremely relatable. While her story is very different from mine, I read recently that we always look for ourselves in each character that we read about, but I didn't have to look very hard to relate to Laurel's desire to find her place in high school and in her family.
Because of the format of the novel and Laurel's voice, I would definitely recommend reading Love Letters to the Dead. Not only is Laurel's story very captivating, but also, it shows that we can learn so much from all the people who came before us.