Expected publication: April 1st 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (first published December 17th 2013)
So maybe I am too old for Young Adult high school stories. Been there, done that. No need to relive the first day in a new school. I actually had quite a lot of them, as my parents really moved a lot through Europe. Not only staying in front of a new class uncountable times (which was always embarrassing), but also in a new city and sometimes even in a whole different country complete with having to learn a new language and adapt to a different culture. So this specific storyline did nothing for me. I just can’t read any more about insecure girls trying to fit in.
My second misgiving with this book was that it was so damn depressing. First, you have all those dead people the letters are addressed to, like Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, River Phoenix and Judy Garland which is all kinds of morbid. Laurel writes letters to deceased celebrities, people that died tragically, in most cases young, in some because of drug overdose. I was crying my eyes out when I read the letters to Kurt Cobain and River Phoenix. But all this melancholy when reading about River Phoenix and Curt Cobain combined with a tragically dead older sister, a tragically split up family and the perpetual feeling that something absolutely tragic happened that night when Mia died and you have the most miserable and sad book ever.
Even Laurel falling in love for the first time was drowned out by the myriad insecurities, her constant dealings with Mia’s death and the consequences on her and her entire family’s life.
Whatever misgivings I have because of personal reasons I cannot deny that Ava Dellaira writes beautifully. But there were also letters where I didn’t feel any connection to, like the author put some name of a dead celebrity there because she had to. For example she leaves the century completely when she writes a letter to John Keats. Allen “Rocky” Lane (Mr. Ed) is beyond my German upbringing (movies and TV series here are dubbed with German speakers). Amelia Earhart, American aviation pioneer, didn’t ring a bell either and I never read anything by Elizabeth Bishop. And even if that is a minor point: but all those people she writes to are white. Where are all the black dead superstars like Tupac Shakur, Jimi Hendrix, Billie Holiday, Muhammad Ali, Toni Morrison and all the others?
Next misgiving: This book is really slow going. This might have something to do with the epistolary stile in which the story is told as each letter describes only one small aspect of Laurel’s life and is instead full of her childhood memories, reflections and of course always small hints as to what happened to her sister Mia. I have to admit I am not a big fan of this writing letters stile. Again depression overload.
In the end 3 Stars out of 5 because this is a beautifully written, moving coming-of-age story and if this were a movie I would cry rivers over it. I was just not in the mood for that much melancholy overload.