Letters to the Lost: A Zoella Book Club 2017 novel Paperback – 6 Apr 2017
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Readers will find themselves rooting for the real Declan to win Juliet's heart the same way his online persona did. Consider this tale of modern star-crossed love as a first purchase for YA collections. (School Library Journal)
Secret letters spark true love in this emotionally compelling romance perfect for fans of Nicola Yoon and Stephanie Perkins. Now part of the 2017 Zoella Book Club for WHSmith!See all Product description
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Declan is the kind of boy you might misjudge. He's the kind of boy Juliet does misjudge throughout the book without knowing he is the guy she pours her heart out to in her letters. He is mowing lawns in the cemetery for community service - he was found guilty of drink driving. All the kids at school know about it, and of course they label him as "that kid" to avoid. Even his step-father seems to find him a waste of space. He's bad news. Except that's not strictly true. And if this book does only one thing, it will teach you not to judge a person based on one snapshot, one moment in their life. I absolutely loved this message.
In fact, the most powerful thing about this book for me was that it elicited such strong emotions from me. This was largely because of the preconceived ideas other people had about Declan because of a single mistake he made. His mother is completely oblivious to his struggles, his step-father is abrasive and pushes him out of their family unit so easily - and it's all so unfair because their mistakes were just as significant but appear to be entirely blameless. He is utterly alone, and yet has more support than he can see. His chapters, and letters, were so frustrating but also were some of my favourites because of it.. You know you're reading a good book when you are so attached to the story that you become emotional for the characters.
There are also lots of incredibly clever ideas in this book. I like the idea that a single day, the same day, can be so many different things to so many different people. Something so tragic to one person, can be an entirely different kind of tragedy for someone looking from a different angle. Kemmerer writes so beautifully. I found myself highlighting so many poignant, or pretty, statements in the book that really meant something to me; these kinds of books are the kind I want to read over and over again. This author seems to really capture what it is to feel the pain attributed to loss, despite it being so different for everyone, and this makes it such an emotional read for anyone who can relate, and probably those who are lucky enough to not be able to yet.
This book really made me think. It's exactly what I enjoy in a book - I want to question what I know; I want the book to make me wonder about things I thought I understood. It is partly a romance, loosely, but it is so much more, asking questions about what it means to make a mistake, what it is to look from another position, and it excels at demonstrating how precious the time we have with those we love is. It will make you angry at the injustice of it all, but it is such a fantastic read because of it. I definitely recommend it.
ARC received free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I've been a huge fan of Brigid Kemmerer since I first read Storm, the first book in the Elemental series, back in 2012. So when I was sent a proof of Letters to the Lost for review, I was super excited. And I am so, so happy I can continue raving about Kemmerer's brilliant writing, because this was just beautiful.
It's been quite a while since I've read anything by Kemmerer. Thicker Than Water, a standalone novel I believe, was released after the Elemental series came to an end. I have it, but I'm yet to read it, and I think it was because the Elemental series was so good, and I was just really upset that the series ended. I guess I kind of worried that it might not be as good? But when Letters to the Lost landed in my lap, I was overjoyed. It was kind of a little reminder, "Hey, Jo, you do know Brigid Kemmerer has written other books, right?" And I was so excited to read it!
Letters to the Lost is Kemmerer's first foray into contemporary romance; the Elemental series is paranormal/urban fantasy, but I'm unsure of the genre of Thicker Than Water. It didn't worry me that Kemmerer had switched genres for Letters to the Lost, because, although the Elemental series is paranormal/urban fantasy, there were always real life elements to the stories - not just romance, but real issues. And I was right to not be worried. If anything, I should have maybe expected Letters to the Lost to be a lot more emotional and hard-hitting. I expected it to be a sweet story of romance blossoming as Juliet and Declan bonded over their grief, through their letters. And although that is what happens, there's also so much else going on, for both characters.
Declan's little sister Kerry died four years ago, when their dad was drink driving, and Declan blames himself. His mother has remarried, and he feels like an outsider in his own home. Alan, his step-father gives him so much crap, expecting him to mess up and so something wrong, time and again. His mother has pretty much closed herself off to him. How do you cope when you're struggling with grief and guilt, your mother doesn't want to know, and your step-father is just waiting for you to put a foot wrong? Juliet is also dealing with guilt over her mother's death. Her mother was a photographer who worked in war zones, and Juliet had begged her to come home early. She did, and then she was killed in a hit and run. If Juliet hadn't asked her mum to come home early, she wouldn't have been in that taxi, and she wouldn't have died. Juliet herself is a pretty talented photographer, but she hasn't been able to touch a camera since, out of guilt and grief, and out of not feeling that she would ever be as good as her mum.
As I said, it's a hell of a lot more emotional and hard-hitting than I expected, especially in regards to Declan's story. I got so angry and how he was being treated, how his family just didn't seem to care. I was so upset for him. He was hurting, and has been for such a long time, and he just seems to get rejection after rejection from those who are supposed to love him. He's carrying too much weight, too much guilt over something that should have never been his problem in the first place, and it upset me so much more than I can express. Four years. He's been dealing with this for four years, and no-one has told him it wasn't his fault. Thank god for Frank Melendez, who Declan works for at community service, and for Mrs. Hillard, his English teacher who sees him and gives him a chance, rather than dismissing him as a delinquent, a lost cause who will amount to nothing. And thank god for the connection he finds through writing to Juliet.
If I had anything negative to say about this book, it would be the ending. It ended far too quickly for me. All the things that were wrong were suddenly not quite as bad too quickly, too easily. And for a romance, I just wish it hadn't ended quite where it ended. I would have liked to have seen more, to have seen what came after that. Thankfully, there is going to be a companion novel, as Rev, Declan's best friend, will be getting his own book, More Than We Can Tell, and I am so glad! Not only because he is such an awesome character with a terrible, traumatic past, but he was just so lovely. And being Declan's best friend, and considering how much of a part he played in Declan's story, I'm assuming Declan will play as big a part in Rev's story, in which case, I'll get to know more about what happened after the ending of Letters to the Lost.
This book is beautiful, moving, heartbreaking, but also incredibly sweet. I loved the romance between Juliet and Declan, but I loved their own individual stories more, and how they were able to help each other with their own problems. Such a fantastic story. And I loved getting back to Kemmerer's writing so much, I immediately started reading Thicker Than Water straight after finishing. A wonderful, wonderful book.
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