Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
Rating: 5 stars
Letters to the Lost epitomizes everything that I adore in a YA novel. The central plot point revolves around two teenagers writing letters (or emails or chats) to each other, without knowing the other person’s identity. While of course also simultaneously having some sort of knowledge of each other in real life. The relationship between them grows deeper on an emotional level while they get to know each other, without some of the extraneous circumstances that come along with surviving the high school life. When done well, these types of books will always bring tears as you become highly attached to the characters and root for their ultimate happy ending.
In this book, Juliet writes letters to her mom that died months earlier in a hit and run accident. A war photographer, Juliet’s mom corresponded most frequently and deeply with her daughter through written letters and Juliet can’t figure out how to give up that connection. She continues to write and leaves the letters at her gravestone. Declan, stuck doing community service for getting drunk and crashing his dad’s car, finds and reads one of her letters while mowing the cemetery. Struck by how deep her words reach his own pain, he responds to her letter. This spurs an angry letter back from Juliet, extremely upset that a stranger has intercepted her deepest thoughts. Declan and Juliet continue to write to each other and eventually set up anonymous email addresses so they can write back and forth more quickly. In the meantime, they form a confusing and hesitant friendship with each other after a couple of rough interactions in their real lives. As you watch the main characters find their way to each other in more ways than one, you become deeply immersed in the different levels of pain they’re each going through and are truly rooting for them each to overcome their pasts and search for a way to make their own paths for the rest of their lives.
Overall, I loved this book. It was definitely on the heavy side. The characters are both dealing with family deaths. Declan struggles with a terrible family life and a step-father who is determined to make him feel absolutely worthless. But there are a host of supporting characters that really show up for both teens in the sweetest ways. Rev, Declan’s best friend, is the kind of friend we all hope to have and be. I loved their friendship as much as I loved what went back and forth between Declan and Juliet. I was also really impressed with how they came to terms with it when they each discovered who the other person was. It didn’t have the crazy teen drama that so many YA books have when things like this happened. It was a great book. It made me cry. And it made me feel a lot of things. I highly recommend reading this one!