Parents' Guide to

Love Letters to the Dead

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Heartbreaking but beautiful novel about a sister's grief.

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Kids say (6):

Ava Dellaira's first novel is not an easy read, but it's worth the effort and the heartache. At first it seems as if Laurel is revealing more about the subjects of her letters (readers will learn a good bit about the dead figures) instead of her own pain. But that's by design, because everyone she addresses a letter to is a reflection of what she's going through -- the unending grief of losing her sister, the tingling excitement of falling for Sky, and the confusion of dealing with the guilt of her broken family. Laurel's turmoil is believably rendered; she's all over the place, like anyone her age would be with so much emotional baggage.

Love Letters to the Dead is a book that a parent and teen could read together, particularly if the family has experienced a loss or the parent remembers feeling a connection to iconic performers whose lives were cut short. It may take a while for some readers to get immersed in the prose if the framing device of the letters doesn't immediately grab you, but stick with it. Laurel's story is painful but powerful, and it will remind readers to find their voice, tell the truth, carry on, and -- to quote Nirvana -- "Come as you are, as you were, as I want you to be, as a friend."

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