Ava Dellaira's Love Letters to the Dead has gotten a lot of positive hype lately (I've even heard it billed as the next Perks of Being a Wallflower). While it does share some similarities with Perks--the narrator is dealing with the death of someone close to her as well as other other uncomfortable things that are hard to talk about, she makes some wild and crazy friends who both help her and show her the dark side of life--it doesn't quite pack the same punch.
In Love Letters to the Dead, Laurel's older sister, May, recently died--and she believes it's her fault. After all, she was there when it happened. In the months leading up to her death, May took living on the wild side to the extreme, dating much older men, partying, drinking, etc. Sometimes she would take Laurel with her, and that's how certain things happened (sorry, no spoilers). At the beginning of the school year following the tragedy, Laurel's English teacher assigns the class to write a letter to a dead person. Laurel picks Kurt Cobain, May's favorite musician. Over the year, Laurel writes about her life drama to Kurt. She also writes to Amy Winehouse, E.E. Cummings, Judy Garland, Heath Ledger, River Phoenix, Jim Morrison, and a few other dead celebs and historical figures. Eventually, through her letters, Laurel confesses what happened the night May died and what happened to her. Big Plot Reveals that are easy to guess beforehand, if you're paying the least bit of attention.
The concept of Love Letters to the Dead is intriguing. Unfortunately, the execution didn't go as well as I'd hoped. Laurel had so many dead pen pals it was difficult to keep track of who she was writing to (is this letter to Kurt or Amy or Judy or someone else?). This required frequent backtracking, and that interrupted the flow of the story, making it difficult to stay invested. I found that really frustrating, and if you're the sort who likes to get fully lost in a book, you'll likely be frustrated by it as well. The story would have worked better had the author stuck to one or two dead people.
On a scale of 1 to 10, Love Letters to the Dead was about a 6. Good, but not fantastic.--AJB