When Stephen Chbosky, the author of the Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Emma Watson raved about this stunning new book called Love Letters to the Dead, I knew I just had to buy the book and read it for myself. The title seemed interesting - a good combination of darkness and poetic style - while the cover art looked simply flawless. Reviews were posted on my twitter feed for weeks saying the book was stunning and has already been signed to be made into a movie. It was also said to have the same style of Perks (no wonder Chbosky loved it), which is one of my favorite books. In a nutshell, I really expected this to be another book I could soon add to my favorite book shelf. But did it live up to the hype? Let's find out. Warning, spoilers ahead!
The book is written in a journal entry format which is not an easy format to pull off. Our main heroine is Laurel, a freshman in high school whose first English class assignment is to write a letter to a dead person. Instead of turning in her letter, Laurel continues to write letters to the dead and begins revealing her deep, dark inner thoughts. She makes two new friends who are in the midst of romantic self discovery and has her own romance with a mysterious boy named Sky. She writes to certain people who's story reflects her current reality and forms a close friendship with their memories. It is her letters to the dead that help her cope with the spontaneous death of her older sister, May.
This book had it's powerful moments but they were fleeting. There were some fancy sentences that stayed with me and certain celebrities that I grew close to with Laurel. My favorite people she wrote to by far were (and in this order) River Phoenix, Judy Garland, and Amelia Earhart. The author did a good job of developing Laurel and reflecting her inner reality via the dead people she wrote to. It definitely felt a bit like Perks and even seemed reminiscent of the Lovely Bones...except both of those books are better than this one.
I went into this book expecting it to be a favorite by the time I shut it but my expectations weren't met...meaning I expected more. While there were some really high points to this novel, there were way too many more low points. One of the things I found annoying was that this has been one before except this book seemed to be the watered down version. It got really close to being great but then would shy away. The concept is really awesome but the execution was sometimes poor. I found the Sky storyline to be a huge, cliche drag. It felt like I was reading New Moon all over again when he broke up with Laurel and I think that has more to do with the fact that we don't know two things: A. That Laurel was molested when she was 13 and B. How May died. I think the novel would have been stronger had we known why Laurel was so traumatized, besides knowing that her sister died. I also found the ending to be predictable and too wrapped up in a cute bow. Laurel's letter to May made me happy but I expected it to happen. I hoped it would happen but at the same time when I turned to the last chapter I had to say, of course. The ending with Laurel being with Sky again and Hannah and Natalie being confident with their sexuality just seemed to happen very fast and too good to be true. Which brings me to my next point. While I was not a huge fan of Sky, it was Hannah who I truly could not stand. I can't explain why she bothered me so much but she had an air to her of accepted ignorance. I don't think likeable characters are what make a good story but rather what makes a good story are characters I can get behind and sympathize with. I felt for Hannah but her attitude bothered me so much and reminded me of the girls in my high school who were often jerks and rude to others for fun. Since this book is being compared to Perks, let me say that in that book Charlie's two friends weren't picture perfect but they were good - good for him and good in a way that reflected the nature of friendship, love and high school. Plus, they took Charlie in and raised him in a way. That relationship worked. Of course, a story can be very different when the narrator is of a different gender but I still think Perks did it better.
Overall, this became a guilty pleasure read for me. I enjoyed it but have read way better books of this calibur. That being said, I won't deny that this is a strong debut novel. I hope to see more from this author in the future. I will give this book 3 out of 5 stars.