It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person.
Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead-to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse-though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven’t forgiven?
It’s not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was-lovely and amazing and deeply flawed-can she truly start to discover her own path.
This latest read was a reread for me. I thought Contemporary January was the perfect chance to reread this book because I remembered loving it so so much while reading it the first time. This was a good story of a young girl going into high school and trying to figure out who she is. It’s a story that tells of grief, of what it’s like to lose a sibling and dealing with all of the feelings that come with this.
“I think it’s like when you lose something so close to you, it’s like losing yourself.”
There were a lot of things that this story tried to deal with. I think it did many things right, like the whole grief dynamic in the story. Laurel is a young girl trying to figure out how to move forward now that her sister has died, along with that her parents have split up and her mother has left. I really related with Laurel and her feelings toward her mother because I also had an absentee mother. I thought it was well done, her feelings toward her mother. Also, her feelings toward her sister were so raw and realistic and I loved it.
“When we are in love, we are both completely in danger and completely saved.”
Sadly, certain parts of this story were pretty cringy. Laurel was pretty self-destructive and not always ways that I understood. There were just things I didn’t like that I don’t want to get too far into. Things that could have been written a bit better. Things involving the parts with drinking, sexual assault, and things of this nature.
“Maybe when we can tell the stories, however bad they are, we don’t belong to them anymore. They become ours. And maybe what growing up really means is knowing that you don’t have to just be a character, going whichever way the story says. It’s knowing that you could be the author instead.”
Overall, I’m disappointed that I didn’t love this book as much as I did the first time. Despite that, I still think it’s a good story. There was a bit too much telling instead of showing. I feel like part of this is because of the way this story is told. Laurel tells this story in the form of letters to dead famous people. So she is essentially telling these people what’s going on, but I think it could have been a bit more ‘show don’t tell’. I think part of me wanted to like this story more than I did, sadly. Though there were tons of quotes that I really enjoyed, some of which will be inserted in this review.
Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.
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