Thursday, April 20, 2017

Letters To The Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Letters To The Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
Release Date -  April 4, 2017
Publisher Website - Raincoast Books
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  400 pages
My Rating - 4.5/5
**received for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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. 
Brigid Kemmerer has created a nuanced look at grief, and some unforgettable characters in Letters To The Lost. It is a story that is both hopeful, and impacting. It is bittersweet, and yet filled with so much heart. It is the type of story that soothes as much as it crushes.

Juliet is still in the deepest parts of her grief over her mother's death. She seems stuck in the anger stage with no clear path out of the darkness. She writes letters to her mother as a way to cope and to feel a little bit of relief from the pain she is weighted down with. She felt like such a realistic character. Her grief and anger were palpable. Part of her wasn't ready to lessen her grief, and even felt guilty about the possibility of it. She felt like it was betrayal of her mother's memory.

My favourite part of Juliet's journey is the realization that her mother wasn't perfect. Her mother was a person who like anyone else made mistakes. The realization that she could be angry at her mother and still love her was a powerful one. We all, at some point, have to come to terms with the fact that our parents are not just what we perceive them as being. There is complexity there that we never really think about until we're confronted with it. It was woven into the story perfect, and felt like a natural part of Juliet's grieving process.

Declan is THAT boy. The one who is used as a cautionary tale because of a mistake he made. Nobody cares about the reason behind what Declan did, just that he did it. They assume he's trouble and he is treated accordingly. Declan has his own grief that he carries around. Two broken, grieving people finding each other is not new, but Brigid Kemmerer manages to make both the characters and plot feel fresh. Declan and his friendship with Rev was a large part of that. I loved their friendship so much. It could have been an entire book on its own and felt just as vital to Declan's story as the romance did.

The connection between Juliet and Declan isn't one that heals all their issues. It is, instead, one of solace and strength. It makes taking those steps out of the darkness a little easier for both of them. It shows the comfort that can come from having someone to talk to, and someone who understands you. I loved that it wasn't portrayed as some instant fix for either of them, but simply something good in each of their lives. The romance is perfect paced, and felt earned in so many ways. The connection is built slowly over letters, and emails so that this incredibly foundation is there before they realize they are falling for each other.

The author manages to circumvent a few expected plot points to great impact. It made the story feel fresh and unexpected. The usual direction of the story would have been an easy way to up the drama, and would have been what was expected. I appreciated that the author decided to defy those tropes and instead provided a much more layered, and deeper character driven story.

You'll immediately finish this novel and want more. More from these characters, and more from this world. Brigid Kemmerer ensures that you fall fully in love with not just her novel, but its characters. This is one that fans of contemporary YA should not miss and will be one you tell others to read immediately after finishing. 

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