Synopsis: This novel chronicles Laurel’s first year of high school along with the first year after her sister’s tragic death. Struggling with what happened the night of May’s death, Laurel has a hard time adjusting to life as a high schooler. Behind the new life she slowly begins to build for herself, there is a secret that Laurel has only ever shared with one person: her sister only moments before her death. With a group of supportive friends struggling with their own problems and a new boyfriend who also knew her sister, Laurel begins to slowly open up about her past. She shares all of this through letters that she writes to the dead, and eventually, a letter to her sister.
Review: I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. There was a certain point, about 80 pages in, when I just didn’t even want to continue reading it. The beginning was dreadfully slow. I felt like nothing was happening, and though readers are told about May’s death, there isn’t much to go on about what happened or what the implications have been besides Laurel’s mother moving to California. Laurel seems to idolize her older sister, and looks back on her sister’s actions as something to imitate. This ends up in about one hundred pages of Laurel beginning high school, making friends, and learning to drink, smoke, party, and skip class. Reading through all of this, as some sort of “coming-of-age” part of the story, was just plain boring.
Mixed in with all of this is a blooming romance with a boy named Sky, who knew Laurel’s sister. There relationship is very instant with not much interaction happening between them before they are a couple. Once we find out how Sky knows May their relationship seems even stranger. I wish the role that Sky seemed to play, of confidant and encourager, would have come from her friends instead.
Like I said, at a certain point I got so bored with all of it, I almost put the book down. I kept reading though, and I’m not sure if it was worth it. As the story continues, the reader slowly, slowly, slowly, finds out about how May died, and how Laurel feels somewhat responsible, and how Laurel has been keeping a pretty awful secret to herself about life before May’s death. Though it begins to explain some of the previous actions Laurel makes in the beginning of the novel, it still wasn’t enough for me.
I don’t want to spoil the ending for you all, so I will just say that it is a very intense and sensitive topic that comes out the end of the book. I feel like it could have been handled very differently, perhaps a little more explicitly. It was always talked about in a very round-about type of way that didn’t make clear just how serious the situation was until the very end of the novel. I also think that for being such a major factor in how Laurel acts and grieves and reacts to certain things, that this could have been given a much larger spotlight. I know it is something Laurel doesn’t like to talk about or really even acknowledge, but it seemed like something so big was made very small to me.
This leads me to the letters. I feel like this story could have been told so much better without the letters. Laurel’s written perspective allows for a distance that could have been gapped with a regular first-person POV happening in real time instead of written about after. Overall, I wasn’t much impressed by the writing. It felt like a mix of one of my diaries at age fourteen and a novel, which made for a weird reading experience that kept pushing me out of the story in order to ask if the writing was that of Laurel or the author. All together, I think the story could have been told more effectively without the letter writing.
There were aspects I did like. For everything that bothered me about this book, I do have to say that Dellaira did a wonderful job with the supporting characters. I thought Laurel’s relationships with her family members were portrayed wonderfully and very realistically for a family that was so torn apart, both by divorce and then by the death of a child/sibling. It added an interesting dynamic that I feel most YA novels ignore, which is the fact that teenagers, you know, have parents and relationships with their parents, relationships that are fluid and changing and sometimes tense but also sometimes good.
Dellaira also did a wonderful job with Laurel’s friends, Hannah and Natalie, and their relationship. I thought this was such a wonderful addition to the novel, but not much of an addition to Laurel’s story. It made me wish that the actual novel would have been about Hannah and Natalie instead. That’s besides my point, however. They were both so well developed and I loved seeing their lives and relationship progress next to Laurel’s. I thought they were great friends to Laurel, and I really wish that their friendship would have been more of a help to Laurel at the end of the novel than I think it was. I think Dellaira missed an opportunity to make this friendship so much more than it already was.
I’m not sure I have much else to say about this book without ruining it for anyone who does decide to read it. I would recommend this novel for those who don’t mind slow reads, tough subjects, or fast-paced romantic relationships. I would all recommend for those who love good secondary characters and realistic family relationships. This is definitely a book for the contemporary lover and probably not for the fast-paced fantasy lover.
With all of that being said, I would probably not re-read this book. For the few things I did like, there were a million things I disliked about it. I’ll leave it up to you whether you should pick it up or not.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Cups of Tea
You can pick up this book here.
Your Pemberley Reader,