When Laurel receives an English assignment to write a letter to a dead person, she chooses Kurt Cobain. He was her sister’s favourite musician and they both died young. When it comes time to hand it in, Laurel suddenly finds it’s all too personal but she does continue writing letters; not just to Kurt. Can those who can’t reply help her come to terms with the loss of her sister?

Her letters are to those who died before their time. People with troubled lives, family break-ups and hard childhoods but also those who could express their feelings or showed bravery. As the letters continue, you find more in common with Laurel and the people she chooses to write to.

Laurel tells the dead the things she cannot tell her friends and family. They start off small, like her trouble making friends at her new school and the boy she stares at. But as time go on, the letters get more and more personal, and we start to learn she has buried a lot under the surface.

Maybe we didn’t have the words for it then, but when we found out you’d died, it’s like the first time that we saw what could happen to innocence.

I wasn’t sure I was going to like it at first though. I’m not a huge fan of books about music. I like listening to music but not talking about it or hearing people talk about. And there seems a trend for young adult books where the kids all like old bands as some sort of statement. Fortunately, it’s more the lives of the musicians that are the important part to the story. She starts talking about how their music affected her but goes on to think about how they lived and died, and the tragedy left behind.

I’m not sure the letters consistently feel like letters though. Especially where speech is concerned, they just read like normal narrative. There are other places where it feels like too much information is given, that some historical background was required but why would you write that in a letter to the person? As a book aimed at young adults, plenty of the people mentioned may be new to them, so it’s tough to get across enough solely in letters. Maybe a mix of letters and some other narrative would have worked a bit better for me.

However it’s a strong debut. Her narrative reminds me a little of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. You know there’s something wrong through her actions and thoughts without being too direct. The revelations of her past come slowly and I didn’t find it predictable. Once I got caught up in her life, the last few letters were really rather moving.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Hot Key Books

Also reviewed @ Alexa Loves Books

Shelve next to: My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher + The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Book Source: Purchased