Friday, May 9, 2014

New YA Fiction - Love Letters to the Dead


Calling all YA fiction lovers! The must-reads for summer are piling up fast and furious. In late March, BuzzFeed put out a list of YA books to look for this spring. I was very excited, but somewhat reluctant to share because I knew the demand for these books would increase. However, that’s not very librarian-y of me, so I published the list to the Library’s Facebook page (twice), and I will provide it to you here.

The first book I tackled on the list was Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira. The main character, Laurel, is struggling with the death of her older sister as she enters high school. During the first week of school, Laurel’s English teacher creates an assignment that requires the students to write a letter to someone who has died. I can’t remember the exact details of the assignment, which weren’t particularly relevant, but this exercise sparks a journey for Laurel. She begins by writing a letter to Kurt Cobain because he was one of her sister’s favorite musicians. Laurel journals her grieving process and social development through these letters, which she never actually turns in for credit. She uses the lives and deaths of people like Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and a few others to help her understand what has happened in her past and discover who she is as a person.

The book is incredibly well written, at times a bit more than shocking, and I found it to be a terribly realistic coming-of-age tale. If you are looking at it for a teen, be forewarned that it handles quite a few typical teen issues (alcohol, first loves, sexuality, drugs, etc.). I never once had the impression that anything negative or unsavory was glamorized in the text, but make the decision based on your personal review of the book.  Personally, I’ve already encouraged my daughter to read it. Books are a great supplement to the endless lectures we shower on our teens and preteens.  Meaningful discussions can easily start with fiction books--not to mention knowing that others experience similar things can be a relief to a young person.

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