Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Book Review: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Hello everybody, it’s Amy. Today I’ll be reviewing Brigid Kemmerer’s novel, Letters to the Lost. This book is amazing- deep and hauntingly beautiful, yet realistic and light at the same time.

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.

Letters to the Lost
is one of the most heartfelt and touching books I’ve ever read. The author did an amazing job not only telling, but showing the situations and mindsets of the characters in such an emotional way. The voice in this novel, whether it is Juliet or Declan, is so realistic, raw, and honest. Juliet’s grief is palpable- you can sense her hopelessness, and even if you’ve never experienced grief like her’s, you can strangely understand. She’s not ready to move on, and that can be applied to so many situations in life. Her half of the story is extremely compelling, but it was Declan's that truly drew me in.

“You know what sucks? If you pick on someone weak at school, you end up suspended [...] But people can say whatever they want to a guy with a reputation, and no one cares. People actually root for it.” 

Being in Declan’s mind is especially thought-provoking- he’s fully aware of his reputation and knows he’s on a seemingly inevitable path to self-destruction. He’s bitter, abrasive, and unruly towards others, and people expect the worst from him in turn. But as in all things, there's more to the story- almost nothing in his life is present in mine, but by the end of the novel, I understood. In addition, this book has great character development as the bond between Juliet and Declan strengthens them both. They push each other to do “unexpected things,” and, unintentionally at first, begin to heal. The story unfolds so naturally, and the storytelling is so honest and heartbreaking while still being entirely realistic. Given the plot, you might think it’s emotionally heavy, but somehow it’s the perfect balance of bittersweetness. Just like life is, not all of it is centered on one thing, and their high school experience and friends are so relatable. 

At its core, this book is about two teenagers on two completely different orbits deciding to share their grief, thinking that no one else would understand. This is also the story of the few people who didn’t give up on them, but more importantly, it’s about the special connection they forge with each other that helps them redirect their lives onto paths of their own choosing.

So I’ll leave you with this quote, and hope you decide to pick this book up,

“We’re all united by grief, and somehow divided by the same thing.”


Letters to the Lost in the Monroe County Library System , Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads

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