Love Letters to the Dead from Ava Dellaira is an absorbing, sink in to kind of novel which captures so much within a short space of time.
Laurel is set an innocuous sounding assignment for her English homework – write a letter to a dead person. She doesn’t hand it in. Instead Laurel spends the next year writing letters to a variety of infamous characters including Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain and River Phoenix. Through understanding them she attempts to understand herself, not least the events that occurred in the lead up to the death of her sister, May.
Always the quieter, younger sister Laurel has lived in the shadow of her enigmatic sister May for so long. Idolising her every action and hiding a heart breaking truth.
The letters are a cathartic release for Laurel as she seeks answers and understanding.
Through this medium Dellaira delicately allows Laurel to peer below the surface and confront what lurks there, carefully treading the balance between raw and heart warming.
Dellaira’s bold, confident voice does not shy away from confronting a myriad of defining moments faced by Laurel and her friendship group. The developing same sex relationship between Hannah and Natalie was handled in a brilliantly empathic manner.
Laurel chooses to write to a myriad of people such as Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse and River Phoenix, significantly each one is a life touched by tragedy. Dellaira captures and harnesses a delicate part of human nature, emphasising the fact that no matter what the façade all of us need nurturing.
‘You grew up so fast, River. But maybe the little boy who needed someone to protect him never went away. You can be noble and brave and beautiful and still find yourself falling.’
Ava Dellaira’s Love Letters to the Dead is an outstanding début YA novel.