Published: April 6th 2017 by Bloomsbury Sydney
Format: Paperback, 393 pages
Goodreads ● The Book Depository ● Booktopia ● Bookworld
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.
My favourite kind of book is one where I don’t have to like the characters to find them compelling. Or, to put it another way, I admire authors who write protagonists I dislike but still want to read about, even at 2 in the morning.
Such is Letters to the Lost. There was a lot to dislike about Juliet – she was selfish, rude, self-centred and just plain cruel at times – but I couldn’t put this book down! Some of it has to do with Declan; he was just so awesome that I didn’t being in Juliet’s head if it meant I could be in his as well. But it’s also that Juliet is realistically flawed. I feel Kemmerer used the dual-POV device very well.
But the thing about Kemmerer’s books, the thing that makes me want to read and re-read her novels, is that they have character. And I don’t mean that they’re about people running around having adventures (though some are), I mean her books have soul.
Letters to the Lost explores grief in so many ways that it left me breathless. It wasn’t just about a dead mother and a dead sister, it was about loss of innocence and loss of hope. It was about facades — the faces we show the world and who we are underneath. Juliet and Declan exchange anonymous letters that reveal their inner selves while showing the other the worst part of themselves in person. This was the most compelling aspect of the novel for me because I enjoyed seeing the contrast between them and their … alter egos? Their romance was slow, subtle, and sweet, and very believable.
Though the parental figures in this novel are absent (Juliet’s mother is dead and her father is emotionally absent, Declan’s father is in prison, his mother is emotionally absent, and his stepfather seems to dislike him intensely), I liked that there were other adults present who helped the protagonists out. Mrs Hillard, Declan’s English teacher, stood out for me because of how patient and understanding she was, and how she didn’t write Declan off just because of his reputation.
And while we’re talking about secondary characters, I have to mention Rev and Rowen, Declan and Juliet’s best friends. They were honest and supportive while also knowing their limitations and seeking help if needed. I really liked their dynamic.
I enjoyed how real this book felt. The characters are wonderfully flawed and the pacing is excellent. It deals with some heavy issues, so it’s not for a reader looking for a light and fluffy read, but it handles them with grace and care. I highly recommend Letters to the Lost and am looking forward to reading More Than We Can Tell, which is about Rev.Blogging Outside the Box is a feature at Speculating on SpecFic, where books outside the SFF banner are reviewed. It is intended to highlight some of the non speculative fiction titles I am reading and share my thoughts with readers.