Love Letters to the Dead
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 2014
“Sometime when we say things, we hear silence. Or only echoes. Like screaming from inside. And that’s really lonely.”
The letters were addressed to Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger and many other famous dead individuals, written by Laurel, an assignment that she could not turn over to her English teacher. The letters tell us about Laurel’s life, before and after the tragic death of her sister May. The letters also contain the lives of these famous individuals, interspersed in between Laurel’s narration of her old and new life, to make a compelling love letters, the messages of which, Laurel hoped, will reach this dead persons, and eventually her sister May.
The depth of Laurel’s musings was amazing, almost too deep to be the thoughts of a high school girl, one of the flaws of the book, but the words in the letters were magic weaving into the reader’s soul, stirring every emotion on every letter.
“I like it – I’m not gonna crack
I miss you – I’m not gonna crack
I love you – I’m not gonna crack
I killed you – I’m not gonna crack”
The Stories of the Dead
The stories of Laurel’s heroes were written in some of her letters and those were always fascinating read, like taking a peak on their former lives. It was also a good way of understanding what was on Laurel’s mind when writing those letters.
These narrations of the lives of the famous dead formed part of the book and these narrations alone make this book special, from Kurt Cobain’s early life in the streets to the last moments of Amelia Earhart (“We must be on you, but cannot see you”- words that still send chills on me whenever I hear it), their stories and the lessons that came from them moored the book’s narrative and guided Laurel to the end (or the beginning) of her own story.
Apart from Hannah and Natalie, there’s nothing much to report with the characters of the book. With Hannah and Natalie, their story and relationship is not that common to be dangled with in a YA novel, making this novel brave for doing so. Laurel’s other friends were those that you could find in other novels, teenagers with angst, drugs and dreams, your typical high school story that reminds the reader of the familiar environment in most YA novels.
As for Sky, the author painted him with a dark background, in a true YA fashion, fitting perfectly with the dark clouds surrounding May and as one expects this ended in a disaster. (And in a happy ending in the end, this is YA book anyway).
The Story of Laurel and May
The narration of the story was superb, revealing the pieces in the mysterious death of May little by little, hooking the readers until the very last letter of Laurel. Amid the background of Laurel’s new life, we read her past, a burden and a nightmare she always carry with her. In each letter, we meet May, her hero and revealed how she was shaped by her, and they became fairies in their own fantasy, the story of their family, and eventually their story after May left them.
“The stories change as we get older. Sometimes they don’t make sense anymore.”