For a school assignment, 15 year old Laurel is instructed to write a letter to a dead person. Instead of choosing her hero, recently deceased older sister, she opts for various celebrities: Kurt Cobain, Judy Garland, Amelia Earheart, Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger. In between her letters to the dead – some praising them, some thinking aloud – we follow her days in a new school, bouncing between the house of her dad and her aunt, and her struggle to fit in and make friends while still under the shadow of her sister.
It’s not very depressing or sad at the beginning. In fact, it seems fluff at first. The most entertaining parts (for me) were learning about the backgrounds of Kurt Cobain and Judy Garland. Laurel gives lots of history in her letters to bond or share similarities with these dead celebrities, so there’s a bit of nonfiction to their biographies. In real life, her friends at school are all misfits: secret lesbians, smart girl dating the “doesn’t apply himself” boy, and the crush with a bad history.
Like most teens with a tragedy behind them, Laurel blames herself for May’s death. As she writes her letters to the dead, her truth comes out: abuse and self blame.
The only real star quality of this book is that in losing her sister, Laurel appreciates life. This isn’t a great piece of literature or doesn’t have a shocking climax. For an overly dramatic teen or one who loves these musicians or celebrities (or someone who thinks their journal writing is the most significant writing out there) a teen will enjoy the book.
Sadly, most adults reading this YA won’t feel like they found a new “hit”, but will simply be reminded of their own high school, overly dramatic and self important, days.
But, Laurel grows to be stronger. So there’s a conclusion, still….not the next big hit. But for a teen who struggles, he/she may find some connection. To me, it’s just aimed at whiny, self-important preteens.
Due to the sexual abuse, death, and alcohol use —- still 14 and up.