Day 4 of my Brigid Kemmerer is here! Today’s post is a review of Letters To The Lost!
This was a really good book, and as I have read her books I’ve realized a big theme in her books. In each book, there are two major themes, one for each main character, and they are always heavy, topical and heartbreaking. I think one of the reasons I love it so much is because I have a weakness for characters confiding their darkest secrets and fears to their love interest, because it’s sad and wonderful all at once. Character growth, man.
About the book:
Letters To The Lost by Brigid Kemmerer, Published April 4th, 2017 by Bloomsbury Children. Recommended reading age is 12+
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 a beautiful and heartbreaking book. (Side note: you’ll be noticing that I use the word “heartbreaking” a lot for Brigid’s books, because it is the perfect word for them.) The two major themes for this book are abusive stepfather/anger issues and dead mother/depression (imposter syndrome?) Both Dec and J have broken families, and it’s awful watching them try to navigate them alone. Yes, they each have supportive best friends, but because they’re both angry and grieving they are subconsciously pushing them away.
I found myself liking Juliet’s story more than I liked Declan’s. I have nothing in common with her or Declan, but I just resonated with her more. I felt for her. I wish we had gotten to see her use the camera as an outlet more. I found that whenever I was reading about her with a camera, it was more interesting. I understood the reasons for her actions more than I did with Declan.
Declan was annoying. He read her letter to her mom, which was private, replied, was surprised when she was angry, and then got mad at her for getting angry ON HER LETTER TO HER MOM, WHICH HE WROTE ON. He was in the wrong. He was a jerk to her whenever he saw her in person, even after he knew that was who he was talking to, which doesn’t even make sense. He flipped out on her for taking a picture, that was for the school, that he and Rev (his best friend) happened to be in and was way out of line. I understand why he wanted the picture deleted, but how he was acting about it wasn’t okay.
I really like the idea of two people writing letters back and forth and confiding in each other through them while remaining anonymous, but I wish it had started differently. Like I mentioned before, reading and replying to someone’s personal letter in a graveyard is an invasion of privacy. If it had been started somewhere else, like a note dropped on the ground or at a classroom desk, or maybe even a letter delivered to the wrong house, I think that would have been better. But I do understand that having the conversation started in a graveyard opened up for dialogue about loss and that’s how the progression of their relationship worked.
The “restoration” of Declan’s and his stepfather’s relationship was nice, and way overdue, but what the stepfather did to him all those years was not okay. The kid was grieving and acting out, so you punish him for years and give him even more reason to be angry? In what world is that okay? I am glad that they are working towards a better and healthier relationship. I also feel that his mom should have been way more responsible, but that is a whole different conversation for another day.
Juliet is on a self destructive path, making her way through the stages of grief. She quit photography because it reminded her too much of her mother and made her feel like she would never live up to what her mother did. She idolized her mother, and the revelation at the end of the book broke her, rightfully so. I would be even more devastated. In the end though, I’m glad she found out. That level of idolization was not healthy. I hope she ends up growing closer to her dad. And that she picks up photography again.
My Overall Rating: 3/5 stars