Dear Kurt Cobain: 'Love Letters to the Dead' by Ava Dellaira
Ava Dellaira’s Love Letters to the Dead boasts a big ol’ quote from the master of YA himself, Stephen Chbosky, right on the cover. Of course I love The Perks of Being a Wallflower (in fact, I wrote about my deep love of it here!), and I have incredibly vivid memories of reading it and connecting to it in high school, so I assumed that any book he liked would probably be one I liked, too. And I was right! While Love Letters to the Dead definitely has a lot in common with Perks (the epistolary format, the musical and literary references), it also has a lot in common with the books of the other authors who have blurbs on the back cover, like Laurie Halse Anderson and Gayle Forman. But most of all, it’s totally its own book, with it’s own characters, feelings, and heartbreaks.
Before I fangirl too hard over it, I should probably tell you what it’s actually about. Laurel, who’s still reeling from the death of her beloved older sister May, starts writing letters to famous dead people (hence the title). She writes to deceased superstars like Kurt Cobain, Judy Garland, Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, the guy who voiced Mr. Ed…okay, so one of those things is clearly not like the others, but it makes sense in the book, I promise. As Laurel is writing to celebrities who’ve passed away, she’s also making new friends at school, and falling into an exciting romance with a dreamboat named Sky. I imagined Sky as a total Jared Leto type, but young Jared Leto, not as he is now with the ombre hair and the man-bun (both of which are perfectly fine hairstyles, but neither of which are really “rebellious high school dude sexy”).
But Laurel’s inability to be honest with the people in her life (and herself) causes problems in most of her relationships, and all of her friends have their problems, as well. Through her letters, and with help from a lot of music, Laurel attempts come to terms with the things that happened in her past.
If you’re a fan of the authors I mentioned earlier (Stephen Chbosky, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Gayle Forman) or Jandy Nelson, you’ll love Love Letters to the Dead. It’s smart, heartbreaking, and totally entrancing.
-While I was researching, I found out that Ava Dellaira has her MFA in poetry, which totally makes sense–there are many poems in Love Letters to the Dead, and the language is gorgeous.
-In a lot of ways, Love Letters to the Dead reminded me of one of my favorite graphic novels, Ghost World. A big part of both books is the desire to go back to childhood, when things were happier and less confusing. Laurel is always wishing that she could go back to how things used to be, to how they’re supposed to be, with her parents together and her family happy.
-On a slightly more superficial note, how beautiful is that cover? And isn’t the title perfect? It’s enough to make anyone want to check the book out.
-If you want to know more about the book, you can visit the lovely website here. You can also read an excerpt and listen to a playlist!
What about you guys? Have you read Love Letters to the Dead? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, send me an email at email@example.com or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.