This week I read Love Letters To the Dead by Ava Dellaira: It was one of the books I received from sweet Wendi @ All Who Wander for the Books 'n' Bloggers Swap. This book has been on my Want to Read List for several weeks, and it did not disappoint.
I wasn't crazy about the book's premise: It's a story told through a series of letters written to dead people. When I was a high school English teacher, I was often astounded by how students thought that writing about death was a more mature choice than writing about life. I find the opposite to be true: Life is a blessings and should be celebrated! Laurel starts high school just a few months after her older sister's tragic death, and on the first day of school, her English teacher assigns the students to write a letter to a dead person. Rather than choosing her sister May, Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain as her letter's "recipient" because May listened to Nirvana often and had posters of Cobain in her room. (Later we discover that this teacher knew about May and probably gave the assignment on purpose. Bad teacher.)
But Laurel doesn't end the assignment with one letter. She begins to write letters to other famous dead people, like Amy Winehouse, Judy Garland, Jim Morrison, and Elizabeth Bishop among others. Laurel's letters contain everything from the mundane day to day schedule of a high school freshman to her sorrow, anger, and grief over the death of her sister and her mother's recent separation from her father. There is a progression to the letters as Laurel slowly reveals the circumstances of her sister's death. The letters also become more mature and complex as the year progresses, and most teens will relate to many of Laurel's trials, but hopefully not all of them.
I really liked Laurel's Aunt Amy. Laurel alternates weekly living with her dad and her aunt so she can attend a different high school in a different school district. Amy is a devout Christian, and (keeping in mind that the story is told in Laurel's voice) it's very refreshing to see a Christian being depicted in a positive light.
I don't want to give away any spoilers, but the plot is revealed in a way that kept me thoroughly engrossed, and Laurel's well-developed character is one of the most interesting young women I've read in YA in a very long time. I really hope Laurel writes to the living in tenth grade.
NOTE: Music lovers will appreciate this book because of the music Laurel discusses in her letters. You can see a playlist for the book on Ava Delaira's website here.