Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
|Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A girl grieving the death of her mother leaves letters at her graveside. They're intercepted by a boy with problems of his own. Could the friendship forged by an anonymous correspondence make it in the real world? Raw and emotional, this one tugs at the heartstrings.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: April 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
Juliet has always written letters to her mother. The award-winning photojournalist wasn't at home much and letters always seemed somehow more personal and intimate than email or Skype. And Juliet is still writing those letters even though her mother died in a hit-and-run accident, rushing home to surprise her daughter by arriving earlier than expected. Juliet leaves them at her graveside, overwhelmed with grief and guilt. If her mother hadn't come home early for her daughter, she would still be alive today.
Declan is completing his community service by working at the cemetery. He is grieving too - and he got drunk, got in the family car, and drove it into a storefront. He's lucky to be alive. Not that Declan sees it that way. And neither does his stepfather.
Declan finds one of Juliet's letters. And writes back. Soon, the two teenagers are opening up to one another in a way they could never do with anyone in their real lives. But they both have secrets. And when real life intrudes rudely into this safe space of anonymous communication, those secrets threaten everything.
Ok, so clearly Letters to the Lost is a YA version of the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan film You've Got Mail. It's a great device for a story featuring adolescents, who would often sooner cut off their own arm than be open and vulnerable with the well-meaning adults who are trying to help them. It's a hard time because teenagers are trying to form an identity and develop a private inner life - an important rite of passage - and if something huge and tragic gets in the way, they will often retreat into private inner worlds. Both Declan and Juliet are doing this - Juliet can't accept help from her father or her teachers or even her best friend. Declan hides his grief and guilt through aggressive and confrontational behaviour. He finds it hard to control his temper.
Of course, the truth will out. And both kids discover that many of their assumptions are faulty. Juliet's mother wasn't a saint. Declan's stepfather isn't all bad. People will still love you even if you aren't perfect.
Kemmerer gets into the heads of both her protagonists really well and she write with a big emotional punch. Letters to the Lost is an affecting read because of it. At times, the plot gets a little bit melodramatic but I think it's called for - this is a story about emotional turmoil and working through grief so everything needs to be heightened. It's a lovely, heartfelt story and I was rooting for both Juliet and Declan all the way through, even at the moments they got everything spectacularly wrong.
Other lovely stories exploring grief after the death of a family member include Breathing Underwater by Julia Green and The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen. My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher deals with both grief and loss and alcoholism in the family.
You can read more book reviews or buy Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer at Amazon.com.
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