Title: Letters to the Lost
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Publication date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
ABOUT THE BOOK:
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.
Where do I start with this amazing book? Letters to the Lost is a book about loss, grief, and unexpected friendships. We live in a world where we are always grasping for that chance of hope and happiness, but we are often overshadowed by the sudden windstorm of death. And instead of being forever lost in grief, Brigid Kemmerer’s book portrays a path of dealing with loss and creating new friendships, while also holding on to cherished memories.
In Letters to the Lost, Kemmerer’s characters experience grief and emptiness after the deaths of close family members, but by the happenstance of letters left at a cemetery, these characters form an unexpected bond through their vulnerable and heartbreaking words. But through misty eyes, I liked that their emotions steadily evolve and elate through a blind connection. What they believe to be just words written on paper turn out to mean the world to each other.
As one of the main characters, Juliet, a current high school student, realistically portrays the emotional struggles of losing a parent. And in order to deal with her grief, she writes letters to her mother and leaves them at her grave site. But as the synopsis points out, the letters do not remain unread. This is when Declan, a fellow high school student, who is working his community service hours at a local cemetery, finds Juliet’s letters and begins responding to her.
The mystery of writing letters to an unknown person under the umbrella of anonymity can feel frustrating, maddening, but also satisfying. By Juliet and Declan keeping their identities secret from each other, they do not feel physically exposed; they do not have to hide their honest feelings or the hurt that comes from the reality of death. Instead of bottling up their grief, both characters use their letters as an outlet to be loose cannons of emotional verbiage. I liked that this outlet opens them up to a unique way of healing, acceptance, and finally gripping to hope.
One of the unique messages that I took away from Letters to the Lost is that the book challenges the characters to see beyond stereotypes. Stereotypes usually distort our views of people, especially in high school. We often think we know a person just by their physical appearance or what others have told us about them. Similar to many high school experiences, Julie and Declan have stereotyped each other and their classmates. But at the end of this book, they notice that these preconceived notions are just fabrications. They are then left to acknowledge that the only person they truly know is themselves and sometimes that is even ever changing.
If you are ever in the mood for a book that portrays the distress of loss and grief with the progression of finding conciliation and peace, I highly recommend Letters to the Lost. This book is full of emotions–pain and sadness–but it also contains a message of hope, discovering ways to cope with loss, and finding friends in the unlikely places.
NOTE: I was not provided a copy of this book by the author or the publisher in an exchange for a review. I bought this book with my own funds and reviewed it at my own discretion. All statements and opinions in this review are mine.