Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Rating: 3/5

Summary: It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.

Going into this novel, I had very high expectations based on the premise and the feedback I had heard about it from people who had already read the novel. I love a good book that can make me cry and hit me straight on in the feels. I had high hopes that this novel would do that for me. While it may have made my eyes water a tad bit, it fell short of what I was expecting.

THINGS I LIKED:

The supporting characters – Natalie and Hannah… Tristan and Kristen… even May and Aunt Amy and Laurel’s Dad. They all had that depth in them that made me fall in love with their stories and want to know what happened to them. As I read through the letters, I had hopes for Natalie and Hannah to finally get the courage to go after the thing they wanted – each other. I wanted Tristan and Kristen to find a way to be together. I wanted Tristan to achieve his goals, and Kristen to achieve hers while still being as in love as they were throughout the novel. I wanted Aunt Amy to find a good man for herself to help get through the lonely days. I want Laurel’s dad to be happy again. And most of all, I wanted more for May than she got, even though her story was doomed from the beginning. The author did a wonderful job in getting us to fall in love with these characters and caring about them.

The premise of the novel – The idea of the novel was so original. It was one of the reasons I had such high expectations for it. The thing I liked most about it was the research that the author did about each of the dead that her main character wrote to. She knew how they died, but most importantly, she knew how they lived and what they did in the midst of their lives. It was really refreshing to go through a novel that the author seemed to be so invested in.

Laurel’s transformation about her sister’s death – As I have probably stated before in other reviews, one of my favorite parts of reading is dynamic characters. I love watching a character go from one point to another. Laurel’s character is definitely a very dynamic character throughout the novel, which I applaud.

THINGS I WAS SO-SO ABOUT:

Laurel’s character – While the author did such a wonderful job developing everyone else’s character and doing research for each of the people that Laurel wrote to, I felt Laurel was lacking. While she did have her character arc about her sister’s death, I felt there was little that we learned about the character herself. She was guilty about her sister’s death and she certainly loved May, but … who was Laurel besides this accident? I understand that in an event as traumatic as this, it defines your life a lot. However, I wanted to know more about Laurel aside from just how she was affected by May’s death. For the narrative the novel was written in, I felt that Laurel should have been more developed than she was. I didn’t necessarily hate her as a character, but she mostly just focused on Sky and her sister, which made it hard to really see her own character traits. … aside from being a crier. I got that one loud and clear.

THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE:

Laurel’s relationship with Sky – Point blank, it felt underdeveloped. I think this began in the very beginning for me so I was against it for the entire rest of the book. As soon as Laurel sets her eyes on Sky, she instantly likes him and stares at him all the time… and he likes her too. I don’t know, the whole thing just felt very rushed to me like they weren’t really given a chance to develop more before they were in this odd relationship. And then, Laurel focused most of her attention on Sky. While I understand Sky was a key player in getting her to open up, I felt that the character was a little overglorified throughout the novel. And then during the big revelation SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT where we learn that Sky got kicked out of school because of his crush on May, I was very weirded out about it. Laurel seemed a bit shocked about it for a page or two before she was going back on about how she loved him. I don’t know… if I found out my boyfriend asked me out because I looked like my dead sister who he had a crush on, it would be game over for me. But hey, maybe that’s just me END SPOILER ALERT. Maybe if I didn’t have the initial premise where I felt they were just pushed together, I might have enjoyed their relationship a little more.

Other than these few complaints, I felt that the book was highly enjoyable. I especially enjoyed the epilogue when the novel had finally come around full circle. I recommend to most YA readers because of the interesting premise that draws most people in. For a debut novel, I have very high expectations for this author in the future.

 

~TAYLOR~

 

You know what the secret is? It’s so simple. We love books.”
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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

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Rating: 5/5 stars

 

Summary:

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE

 

It’s been a long time since I’ve read two books I’ve absolutely adored back to back. I read good books all the time, certainly, but it takes a lot for me to fall head over heels for a book. I discovered the book We Were Liars on twitter after a large majority of the authors and readers I follow were raving about it. I marked it to-read, and swept it under the rug – as what happens to a lot of my to-read novels. I stumbled back upon it as I was downloading books for vacation a few months later – and gosh, do I wish I dived into this novel sooner.

The novel opens with our four main characters, the Liars. Cady (our central character) is a part of the prestigious groups of Sinclars – a family who owns an island that they spend every summer on. She is the oldest grandchild, closely followed by two other Liars, Johnny and Mirren. The last member of the Liars is Gat. Gat is Johnny’s mom’s boyfriend’s nephew, who came along one summer and ended up spending every summer after. At the opening of the novel, it appears to be a love story between Cady and Gat.

Until Cady reaches summer fifteen and has a terrible accident that she cannot remember. Her cousins and fellow liars stop answering her emails, and her mother begins to shelter her. In fact, during summer sixteen, she goes on a trip with her father and spends her first summer ever without the Liars. All Cady can remember about the accident was the fact she ended up with half of her clothes off faced down in the ocean after hitting her head. And she doesn’t even really remember that. That’s just what they told her over and over as she asked what happened day after day.

Now she is left with terrible, constant migraines with no recollection of what happened. And when she finally goes back to the island with her family, her grandpa built a new house, and everyone is keeping secrets – even her little cousins.

The entire course of the novel is a journey to uncover what happened to Cady and why the rest of the Liars are acting so weird… and why is Gat acting so guilty when he kisses her? And why did Gat abandon her after her accident when he told her he loved her?

One thing that I enjoyed that most people did not was the writing style. (well, I am a little obsessed with prose.) Lockhart has short chapters that constantly skip around. It took me a while to figure out what time we were in during some of the flashback scenes, but otherwise, I found her style to be refreshing. In fact, in writing the way that she did, it packed a bigger punch when the events that occurred to Cady are finally revealed. It also seemed very true to Cady’s character who was very dramatic, though it may not be apparent until later in the novel.

Honestly, I applaud Lockhart for the genius that is this novel and its turn of events. I am probably the worst person in the whole world at suspense. I am notorious for reading the last page before reading a novel all the way through or wikipediaing what will happen in each episode of the TV show I am chain-watching to ‘prepare myself’. We Were Liars kept me so absorbed with the current events of the novel that I was not once tempted to flip to the end to see what happened. I was very glad I waited too. This novel slowly builds itself up without the reader really understanding until it reveals the shocking factor.

That’s the thing I think I like most about the novel. All too often, we read books and then jump to the next one without much thought about the first one. Most of the time, we read for enjoyment and the bigger lesson does not seem to be that big of a deal compared to the entertainment factor. Lockhart’s novel is the complete opposite. I finished the novel right before I intended on going to bed, and I ended up going to sleep two hours later than I planned because I was thinking about the impact the book made on me. A sign of a good novel is not just how one enjoys it while reading it, but the impact the readers carry with them. This novel caused me to think a lot about my own life and questions I had always quickly skimmed over.

I HIGHLY recommend this book to everyone. Not only was this a highly enjoyable read, I think it leaves readers with hard questions that we tend to neglect because they are too difficult to think about. Honestly, if you get the chance, read this novel and try to take with you the lessons Lockhart so beautifully expressed throughout the pages.

 

~TAYLOR~

 

You know what the secret is? It’s so simple. We love books.”