Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Heartwrenching and Emotional: Letters to the Lost

Title: Letters to the Lost
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Release Date: April 4th, 2017!
*I picked up a physical ARC at ALAMW.

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.

My Review!
It’s sometimes hard, reading a book you KNOW is going to personally gut you from the inside out. It’s sometimes *really* hard putting yourself back into such a place of vulnerability. I couldn’t do that for a long time, after losing my dad. For a long time, I specifically did not read books like this. But reading books can be really cathartic and helpful sometimes. It actually feels pretty great when you can personally relate and you can read about a main character and think, “This is my story.” Letters to the Lost was that type of book for me in a few ways.

I definitely felt Juliet’s anger and pain, and knew it well. I felt for her, and what she was going through and the way that she handled it (not as best as she could’ve, but as well as she could at that period of time). She forgot what it means to live and what it feels like to be happy. She forgot to LET herself feel happiness, and so she hid. She hid her grief from the world and let it consume her, until she realizes that she can’t keep doing this. That it wasn’t fair to her mom’s memory. To her dad. And most of all, to herself. Juliet was not always an easily likable character. She could be SO judgmental and selfish, a bit cold. But she was trying and learning how to live without her mom around. She finally got to a place of healing, and it was beautiful to see.

Juliet was not the only one in pain and grieving. Declan was too. He was going through A LOT in this book, from his mom remarrying to jail time and community service. And with it all, he’s still experiencing guilt and anger over his sister’s death. He’s drowning in that guilt, and I’m actually so mad that his mom didn’t see it. That she didn’t seem to care. She and his stepdad just wrote it off as teenage rebellion, and so did everyone else. They judged him so much, and he fell into that damn self-fulfilling prophecy. He gave people what he thought they wanted. But he needed to just be himself, and he needed to hear that it wasn’t his fault. That none of it was. This broken boy deserved better from people. And I’m SO glad he came to understand that.

I’ve a weakness for this romance trope. I love stories where the main characters don’t know who the other is, but they’re falling in love anyway, but they also make me anxious. Because once one of the people learns the true identity, I never know what’s going to happen. And this was hard sometimes, because I just wanted them to KNOW and stop being so stubborn and accept that maybe they’d judged each other too harshly and they actually fit together. That maybe they actually might even love each other? GASP. Honestly, I really loved watching this play out, even if it got so angsty and I just wanted to smash their faces together. It took them both a long time to remember that you shouldn’t judge people before you know them and their stories.

I loved everything about this story, from the letter writing and shared secrets in a graveyard to the relationships both Declan and Juliet had with their best friends. Rev is a precious cinnamon roll too good and pure for this world, and I LOVED HIM. LOVED HIM SO MUCH I’M SO GLAD HE’S GOT HIS OWN BOOK. I also really adored Juliet’s bff, Rowan. I loved the exploration of grief and pain, the kind of pain that steals your breath away and makes you forget to live, the kind that creates a fog of darkness where you can't see anything or anyone except the light at the end of a tunnel that you can't seem to reach no matter how much you want to. I loved it all, and just have one tiny issue I don’t care enough to even talk about, tbh.

This story was deeply emotional and personally relatable, breaking my heart over and over again, and then putting it back together. I, uh, cried a lot. And that started even in the beginning. I was such a mess, and Juliet and Declan were such messes. But this book was so, so wonderful. There was so much depth and feelings, and a realness to it that really spoke to what it’s like being a teen, especially a teen trying to cope with tough things. I knew I would enjoy this, as I have with all Brigid Kemmerer’s novels, but I just fell in love with this story and these characters. *heart eyes emojix1,000*


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