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.