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  • Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
  • Karen Coats
Dellaira, Ava. Love Letters to the Dead. Farrar, 2014. [336p] ISBN 978-0-374-34667-6 $17.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 7-10.

In response to a school assignment, Laurel begins a therapeutic odyssey, writing letters to dead celebrities as she tries to come to terms with the death of her beloved [End Page 568] sister, May. She and May were always close, but May was the one who tried to jolly everyone up when their parents fought, and May was the one most affected by their parents’ divorce. As much as she tried to save Laurel from sadness, May couldn’t save herself, and her bad choices had ripple effects on her little sister. Laurel writes to Kurt Cobain, Judy Garland, Janis Joplin, River Phoenix, Amy Winehouse, and Amelia Earhart, among others, each celebrity’s personal history playing a role in her growing understanding of how innocence is lost and pain grinds people down. She tells them of her experiences starting a new school, falling in love, and watching her two friends, Natalie and Hannah, stumble toward a relationship they both want but that scares Hannah. Reminiscent of Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wall-flower, this is powerfully emotional stuff, particularly as Laurel moves from merely reporting on what happens to processing how she feels and why. The trajectory of her growth through grief moves slowly but surely, from reading Elizabeth Bishop’s poetic meditation on “the art of losing” to writing her own in prose that becomes progressively more lyrical and introspective until it resolves, fittingly, into a poetic love letter to her much-missed sister.



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pp. 568-569
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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