#17 “Love Letters To The Dead” by Ava Dellaira

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  1. City of Heavenly Fire – Cassandra Clare
  2. Every Word – Ellie Marney
  3. Skinjob – Bruce McCabe
    i.     Bloodlines – Richelle Mead
    ii.   The Golden Lily – Richelle Mead
    iii. The Indigo Spell – Richelle Mead
    iv. The Fiery Heart – Richelle Mead
  4. Silver Shadows – Richelle Mead
  5. Looking For Alibrandi – Melina Marchetta
  6. Goose – Dawn O’Porter
  7. Run – Gregg Olsen
  8. Love Letters to the Dead – Ava Dellaira
  9. Stoner – John Williams
  10. The Wrong Girl – Zoë Foster
  11. A Fatal Tide – Steve Sailah
  12. Murder in Mississippi – John Safran
  13. Elianne – Judy Nunn
  14. Being Jade – Kate Belle
  15. Martha in the Mirror – Justin Richards
  16. Shining Darkness – Mark Michalowski
  17. The Hound of the Baskervilles – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  18. Divergent – Veronica Roth
  19. Insurgent – Veronica Roth
  20. Allegiant – Veronica Roth
  21. The Messenger – Markus Zusak
  22. Fragile Things – Neil Gaiman
  23. The Mammoth Book of Angels and Demons
  24. Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell
  25. NOS4R2 – Joe Hill
  26. The Gospel of Loki – Joanne M. Harris
  27. Hades – Candice Fox
  28. Last Night at Chateau Marmont – Lauren Weisberger
  29. Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
  30. Are You Seeing Me? – Darren Groth
  31. Masquerade – Kylie Fornasier

I don’t read when I’m sick. I know that I probably should relish the opportunity and bury my face in all of the books that I have yet to read, but usually? All I want to do is stare straight ahead, unmoving, with a bottle of water next to me, and wait for the nausea to subside. Because of this, I have watched a lot of TV in the past week, but haven’t knocked off too much of my TBR list. That being said, I finally finished Love Letters to the Dead the other day. I had to catch lift a into work super early and I had nothing to entertain myself with for two hours other than this book. There’s something quite satisfying in sitting in a café or something where everyone else has their phones out and you whip out a book.

There seems to be a running trend at the moment in YA. I’m not sure how widespread it is, but I’ve come across it a couple of times. That trend is the voice of the narrating character. A few of the voices I’ve read now have this simple way of talking but with a few ravishing metaphors or descriptions thrown in for good measure. Now, I’ve heard of genre trends, everyone has. Twilight became mega successful and all of a sudden there were vampires everywhere. Then there were angel stories everywhere, and now zombie stories. Witches even made a bit of a comeback a few years ago. But I have never heard of voice trends. Having to have a few quotes in a book that read like a bumper sticker is now the “in” thing. I blame John Green. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just that I like my authors to have individualistic voices. Not have them blend in to make a quick buck.

I liked the way this story progressed. From the outset, we know that Laurel lost her sister, May. May died in mysterious circumstances and Dellaira doesn’t give us the whole story until the last quarter of the book. She dropped hints all the way through, but didn’t divulge everything until the end. This could have been annoying if it had been done wrong, but it simply sounded believable to me: Laurel struggling with the circumstances of May’s death and her own “role” in those circumstances. It took time for Laurel to be able to verbalise what had happened.

Sky was an interesting introduction into the story. His appearance was very sudden and so was Laurel’s attraction to him. I almost condemned it as too abrupt but then realised I’ve been out of high school for too long. That’s how it happens. You see someone and boom, you’re suddenly crushing on them. Hard. It was a bit of a blow to see how easy it is to forget what it’s like to be a teenager. I’m only twenty-two!

This story grabbed me from the outset and I would have had it finished in two days, as opposed to a week, had I not been sick with Death Flu. But there is a massive drawback. As I was reading, I noticed more and more that Love Letters to the Dead is incredibly similar to The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In actual fact, the more I thought about it, the more sure I was that Dellaira had taken Chbosky’s story, added a few elements, mixed up the original ones, and given us a retelling. Have a checklist:

  • Socially awkward protagonist (Charlie, Laurel)
  • Socially awkward protagonist writes letters to someone (Charlie to his “friend”; Laurel to dead celebrities)
  • Socially awkward protagonist makes friends with the “wild children” (Charlie with Sam and Patrick; Laurel with Hannah and Natalie, Tristan and Kristen).
  • One of the “wild children” friends hooks up with inappropriate guys (Sam; Hannah)
  • The “wild children” have something to do with homosexuality (Patrick is gay; Hannah AND Natalie are gay)
  • Socially awkward protagonist gets introduced to sex, drugs, and rock & roll (Both Charlie and Laurel are introduced to that world through their “wild children” friends).
  • Socially awkward protagonist has a teacher who encourages them (Charlie, his English teacher; Laurel, Mrs. Buster, her English teacher)
  • Socially awkward protagonist’s social awkwardness is explained via some huge secret that gets revealed in the final stages of the novel (The reveal in both books is remarkably similar. I won’t give it away if you haven’t read either of them, but if you’ve read one of these books, you can almost guess the ending of the other one)
  • The friends that the socially awkward protagonist makes leave high school at the end of the novel (Sam and Patrick; Kristen and Tristan)

This made me sad. What’s the point of playing into the popularity of a  genre when all you’re doing is retelling the biggest seller in that genre? I love that the success of Twilight gave us Vampire Academy and Bloodlines. But those stories have nothing in common. Even the vampire element is completely different. The similarities between Love Letters to the Dead and The Perks of Being a Wallflower are staggering. Forget the plot, even the voices sound the same, and one of the narrators is a girl!

Love Letters to the Dead was a great book. It was just a pity I’d read it before, from Chbosky’s point of view.

★★ 1/2

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About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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16 Responses to #17 “Love Letters To The Dead” by Ava Dellaira

  1. Deborah says:

    Oh I completely agree with your ‘voice’ trends comment. I read a lot and can see trends in novels which render something that was edgy and interesting – now kinda bland. ‘Voice’ is a biggie for me and I’ve read a few books now where it’s really shaped the novel. (Plot, schmlot!) If that makes sense!

    • Bec Graham says:

      That definitely makes sense! In a lot of the books I read, the same thing happens: voice drives plot. But that’s OK. What’s not OK is authors ripping off the voices of other authors. People struggle to find their voice and to have someone rip off a successful voice is just lazy.
      I know that I tend to sound like whoever (whomever?) I happen to be reading at the time and so I edit heavily.

      Oops, that turned into a bit of a rant! >.<

  2. Yikes that is a low rating! I must admit as soon as this book came out and I saw the similarity to Perks I decided I wouldn’t go near it. That narrative trend you talked about? Yeah, it drives me kind of crazy in 95% of cases, especially to the extreme that Chbosky (and by the looks of it Dellaira) took it. When you put the two comparisons together it really is scary how much they have in common! It’s a shame because it sounds like the story idea for Love Letters had so much potential.

    Sorry that you were disappointed, I hope you have better luck with your next book. 🙂

  3. Charl says:

    YES. Yes to everything you’ve said.

    Your side-by-side comparisons are both hilarious and bloody scary. Perks and Love Letters are practically the same book, aside from the whole dead celebrities thing. Parts of it are amazing but on the whole it just served to infuriate me.

  4. HOLLY says:

    THIS IS SO TRUE. These similarities bothered me as well while I was reading. Awesome post! 🙂

  5. Pingback: Aussie book bloggers link-up

  6. Deborah says:

    Hi Bec – I’ve briefly referred to this post in a blog thing I’ve shared today (a linkup) with next week’s theme being about trends and the whole ‘derivatives’ thing.

    Deb

  7. Pingback: ABBLinkUp - Derivatives & trends in novels

  8. Pingback: #23 “Goose” by Dawn O’Porter | My Infernal Imagination

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