HomeBooks by SubjectBooks with Girl CharactersLove Letters to the Dead, by Ava Dellaira | Book Review
Love Letters to the Dead by AvaDellaira

Love Letters to the Dead, by Ava Dellaira | Book Review

The Children’s Book Review | July 31, 2014

Love Letters to the Dead by AvaDellairaLove Letters to the Dead

By Ava Dellaira

Age Range: 14 and up

Hardback: 327 pages

Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux (April 1, 2014)

ISBN: 978-0-374-34667-6

What to expect: Siblings, Loss, High School

It’s hard to live in the shadow of your big sister, especially when your sister is dead.

Laurel hopes to make a fresh start and outrun her sister’s shadow when she starts High School, but when Laurel’s handed an assignment in her English class–write a letter to a dead person–she finds her sister, May, is still haunting her, even though Laurel’s not writing to her.

Laurel starts with a letter to Kurt Cobain, because May loved him. And even though Laurel never hands the letter in to her teacher, she finds she can’t stop writing. Laurel writes letters about music, love, friendships, her absent mum, her dead sister, to people like Amy Winehouse, Judy Garland, and John Keats. And in these unanswered, one-way correspondences, Laurel learns to confront the past, and step out of her sister’s shadow, to see her sister for who she really was.

Laurel’s poetic, lyrical, and entirely endearing voice will make you laugh, cry, and simply take your breath away with lines such as:

“You think you know someone, but that person always changes, and you keep changing, too. I understood it suddenly, how that’s what being alive means. Our own invisible plates shifting inside of our bodies, beginning to align into the people we are going to become.”

Reading Ana Dellaira’s Love Letters to the Dead will bring about a serious book hangover: her novel will linger with you for days. Dellaira tackles serious and all-too-real issues and anxieties with grace, humility and heart-breaking accuracy. Dellaira proves that to be a great writer, one must be a great observer–and Dellaira is one heck of an observer. Disturbing, enchanting and utterly unforgettable, Love Letters to the Dead won’t let you go, long after you read the last word.

Add this book to your collection: Love Letters to the Dead

About the Author

Ava Dellaira grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a Truman Capote FellowAfter graduating from Iowa, she  moved to Los Angeles with aspirations of becoming a screenwriter, and had the good fortune to get a job working for Stephen Chbosky. When she gave him some of her writing, he said, “I think you should write a novel.” That night the title popped into her head: Love Letters to the Dead. She believes this book began when she bought her second album ever—Nirvana’s In Utero—which she listened to on repeat while filling the pages of her journal. She currently lives in Santa Monica, California, where she works in the film industry and is writing her second novel.

avadellaira.com | Twitter | Facebook

Love Letters to the Dead, by Ava Dellaira, was reviewed by Charlie Kennedy. Follow along with our books about loss tag and our Young Adult Books category to discover more great novels.


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A recent graduate from the MFA in Creative Writing program at the University of San Francisco, Charlie is working on her own first children's fantasy novel. Originally from England, Charlie grew up fascinated by the works of Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, and other European children's authors. Charlie pursued a career in journalism in both England and the UAE before returning to her true love of creative writing. When she's not writing or reading, Charlie can be found with her camera in tow, capturing the sights within her neighborhood and others, in her fair city of San Francisco.

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