Love Letters to the Dead

love letters

3 out of 5 Stars

One Art

BY Elizabeth Bishop
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Laurel receives an assignment in English class to write a letter to a dead famous person, but what starts as a school assignment turns into a way for a young girl to sort through her grief over the loss of her sister.

Through writing to such famous people as Kurt Cobain, Judy Garland, Heath Ledger, and River Phoenix; famous people who had taken their own lives, she tries to sort through her thought on why her sister, May, did the same.

It is a story of grief and growing-up as Laurel goes through the trials of facing a new High School, making friends and dealing with the aftermath within her family after the death of her sister. Her mother leaves her father and herself, unable to face the loss and blaming herself for not being able to see it coming. But, what really did happen to May? Does Laurel know more than she’s letting on?

love letters quote

love letters 3

There were some beautiful quotes in this book and I thought that the reality of a girl in Laurel’s position receiving this assignment really would help them sort through the conflict within themselves. I feel that other’s would enjoy this book more than I did, as I always have a hard time investing in books written in the voice of a young teen as it always seems way too angst ridden to me.

Laurel is always worrying too much what everyone else thinks about her (yes, I understand that this is a normal teenaged mentality) but, it gets a little annoying with her worrying all of the time.

“The only things I know about high school are from May. On my first day, I went into her closet and found the outfit that I remember her wearing on her first day—a pleated skirt with a pink cashmere sweater that she cut the neck off of and pinned a Nirvana patch to, the smiley face one with the x-shaped eyes. But the thing about May is that she was beautiful, in a way that stays in your mind. Her hair was perfectly smooth, and she walked like she belonged in a better world, so the outfit made sense on her. I put it on and stared at myself in front of her mirror, trying to feel like I belonged in any world, but on me it looked like I was wearing a costume. So I used my favorite outfit from middle school instead, which is jean overalls with a long-sleeve tee shirt and hoop earrings. When I stepped into the hall of West Mesa High, I knew right away this was wrong. The next thing I realized is that you aren’t supposed to bring your lunch. You are supposed to buy pizza and Nutter Butters, or else you aren’t supposed to even eat lunch. My aunt Amy, who I live with every other week now, has started making me iceberg lettuce and mayonnaise sandwiches on kaiser rolls, because that’s what we liked to have, May and I, when we were little. I used to have a normal family. I mean, not a perfect one, but it was Mom and Dad and May and me. Now that seems like a long time ago. But Aunt Amy tries hard, and she likes making the sandwiches so much, I can’t explain that they aren’t right in high school. So I go into the girls’ bathroom, eat the kaiser roll as quickly as I can, and throw the paper bag in the trash for tampons.”

I do like the slow build up dealing with what brought May to take her own life and the way that Laurel tried to deal with it, I liked the glimpses into May’s life and seeing her through Laurel’s eyes.

Laurel idolized her sister even if May’s life was far from perfect, it was perfect to Laurel. You almost had yourself hoping that Laurel wouldn’t try to follow her sister in suicide just to mimic her life.

Love Letters to the Dead is Best Served with A “New Years Punch”

new years punch

So, as I love to take recipes from the books themselves when I can… this was an interesting one! Laurel and her under-aged friends have a New Year’s Eve party together and they make punch. It was meant to be with “Cinnamon Aftershock” as that’s what they drink throughout the book,


But, it is not available in my area! So, I had to make do with something else that was cinnamon flavoured! I went with Dragonheart which is a cinnamon vodka made by Forty Creek. You can use whatever you can get your hands on though!


  • 2 oz Cinnamon Alcohol (Aftershock, Dragonheart, Goldshlager, etc.
  • 6-8 oz Apple Juice
  • a couple drops of red food colouring
  • Cinnamon sticks


  1. Put ice in a cocktail shaker
  2. Add Alcohol, apple juice and food colouring
  3. Shake for approx. 20 seconds
  4. Pour and garnish with cinnamon stick
  5. CHEERS!!

Feel free to leave out the food colouring if you wish. I was just making the drink authentic to the one made in the book! Lol! But, it really holds no purpose! The drink is ACTUALLY very good though! The cinnamon alcohol makes it taste more like a cider!

Also, If you would like to actually make it a punch just throw all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir it up a bit. Just let the cinnamon sticks float in it for flavour!

15 thoughts on “Love Letters to the Dead

Add yours

    1. Lol! Ya. There’s a lot of things I don’t think a teen would say, and there’s a lot of description that I think a teen might say “thinking of Sky’s sparkling eyes”… But, it doesn’t mean that I wanted to read it! Lol!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hmm. I have this on my tbr because I do read a lot of YA books, and the subject matter sounds interesting. It’s also appealing to me because my dad died when I was a junior in high school and I had so many unresolved feelings after he was gone. He was my best friend, but at 16, I was so angry that he left me, although of course it wasn’t his fault he developed a brain tumor. I had an AP English teacher who made me write a letter to my father. I hated that teacher at the time, but by the time I handed what turned into an almost ten page ode to my dad, I truly appreciated what he did. Anyway, I’m sorry this wasn’t for you Nicole. Awesome review though. I’m going to keep it in mind when I do get around to checking it out at the library.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hope you enjoy it! I feel like the subject matter of a book can make it very personal. I definitely didn’t DISLIKE this book and I hope I didn’t give that impression! It had some beautiful quotes that made it difficult for me to choose which ones to include in my post. It just wasn’t exactly the be all and end all book for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Angsty teens are hard on me too, Nicole. Teenage grief is a tough topic, partly because everyone grieves differently, but also because teens have enough challenges without adding grief into the mix. And suicide makes it even more complex. Kudos to the author for giving it a go. Excellent review!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds like a really interesting premise, though a couple of little quirks in the narrator’s voice in your extract gives me pause. I think I might be similarly irritated by the ongoing worries of a teenage girl, as you noted here. 😉
    Would the “punch” work with Fireball cinnamon whiskey, do you think? I’ve had it mixed with freshly-squeezed apple juice before, and really enjoyed it (granted, it was late in the evening when I ordered it, so it might not be as good as I remember objectively… hahaha)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was definitely hard to read the thoughts of a teenage girl at times.. But, maybe that makes it more authentic? 😉 it was a really good story though.
      Fireball would work great with the punch!


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