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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Lefty's Lowdown: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
(Letters to the Lost #1)
Published: April 4, 2017 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Source: I won an ARC of this novel in a giveaway. All opinions stated in this review are 100% my own.
Summary from Goodreads: 
Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

I'm so mad at myself for putting this novel off for so long. I really enjoyed one of Kemmerer's previous books, so this book hit my "highly anticipating" list the moment I heard about it, but it took me seven billion years to make the (incredibly) smart decision and start in on this gem. And, what do you know, the moment I started reading, I couldn't stop. I guess good things really do come to those of us who wait.

Letters to the Lost is a book about grief and guilt, but it's also about healing and connecting to those who are still here. As a self-proclaimed piece of macabre garbagio, I'm always enraptured with YA books that explore death, and Letters to the Lost does so in a way that is gutting and honest. There are some truly thought-provoking discussions throughout this novel and some very sharp observations about grief.

It was fascinating to watch the two protagonists, Juliet and Declan, develop a relationship through these anonymous letters, and every time they interacted face-to-face without knowing who the other person is, my heart began to thump quite erratically in my chest. It was the best kind of anticipation and anxiety. I really connected with both of these characters. While I found their decisions and attitudes to be quite frustrating at times, it was hard to stay mad at them. They had depth and complexity and horrible revelations and tremendous growth. I also really admire the way they help each other heal, but not in a way that's unhealthy. Not in a "Someone loves me so I can love myself" kinda way. These two characters understand each other and they push each other.

But even better than the romance is the BROMANCE in this book. Declan and his best friend Rev have one of my favorite bromances (and, really, friendships in general) in the history of YA. Their love for each other is so pure and selfless and unconditional. It's obvious from the very beginning that they would do literally anything for each other at any time. And there are never any cracks about them being gay for each other, which is important. While I don't think homosexuality is ever offensive, I think it is crucial to portray a beautiful male friendship as exactly what it is without gender expectations muddling things. I NEED MORE AUTHORS TO TAKE NOTES.

My singular complaint for this novel is that I wish we got to see a little bit more of Juliet and Declan being all happy and kissy together, but that's just a personal complaint because I like to read romance.

With this novel, Kemmerer has gifted the world a poignant and engaging story. The moment I finished this, I could not wait to pick up the sequel so I could get more of these characters.

My rating: 

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