Series: Letters to the Lost #1
Also in this series: More Than We Can Tell
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on April 4th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)
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.
I have read every single one of Brigid Kemmerer’s books, and I have not been disappointed yet. When I first read the description of this one, I was a little surprised to see that it’s a straight-up contemporary (considering that her Elementals Series is paranormal and she wrote so many of those). But as I read, I started to realize that I was falling in love with it for the same reasons that I fell in love with the Elementals books: her characters. Kemmerer writes characters that I can’t help but connect to, and whether she’s telling a contemporary story or a paranormal one, her books focus on the characters and what drives them—and, often, the pain behind their stories. Letters to the Lost is a beautiful example of this.
What Fed My Addiction:
- Heartbreak. Honestly, if Declan and Juliet’s stories don’t tear you to pieces, you have to be made of stone. They’ve both experienced tremendous loss in their young lives, and neither of them have figured out how to process it. There were so many times that my heart broke during this book, for both the main characters. Tears were definitely shed.
- Juliet has been clinging to her mother’s memory like a lifeline by writing letters to her (something they did while her mother was still alive, so it makes her feel close to her), but at the same time, she’s completely avoiding living and anything that reminds her too much of her mother. She’s given up her passion for photography because she doesn’t believe she can ever live up to her mother’s legacy. She can’t seem to drag herself out of the pain and sorrow that have surrounded her since her mother’s death, and she’s tired of people telling her to move on. Juliet doesn’t want to move on—she wants to hold onto every scrap of memory she can manage to pull up from her spotty history with her mom.
- Declan is recovering from a tragedy of his own, but I won’t reveal what it is since his story unfolds as the book progresses. Like Juliet, he holds onto pain and guilt, unable to move past it—but he responds with sullenness (and sometimes surliness). He has a reputation for being trouble, and he doesn’t figure there’s any way to make people see him in any other way. In a lot of ways, he’s given up.
- The Letters. Declan and Juliet communicate via letter, and neither of them know who they’re writing to. Because of the nature of letters, they can be a lot more honest and open with each other than they’d be in person, especially since the letters are anonymous. The letters reveal so much about these characters and their hidden pain, and a connection is forged between Declan and Juliet that’s both intense and believable.
- Perspective. One of the major themes of the book is how Juliet and Declan only show one side of themselves to the world—and they judge each other based on preconceived notions. Juliet has heard the rumors about Declan and she has no reason to doubt them—especially when he doesn’t exactly put his best foot forward when they meet in person. Declan makes his own assumptions about Juliet as well. This book reminds us that we don’t ever fully know someone’s story, that we can’t know what goes on in someone’s heart and mind unless we’ve walked in their shoes—or cared enough to truly listen.
What Left Me Hungry for More:
- Declan’s surliness. The only thing that holds me back from giving the book a full five stars is that Declan sometimes borders on being an actual jerk in real life (not in his letters). The thing that saves him is that we get his perspective and we know his pain—we can see how he’s been judged and why he sometimes lashes out when he feels like he’s being unfairly targeted. Still, I couldn’t help but feel like Juliet was sometimes justified in her criticisms of his behavior, and there was a little part of me that wondered if Juliet could (or maybe should?) truly fall for Declan before he had all his issues figured out. (Of course, the implication is that he’s managed that by the end of the book, but the realistic part of my brain wondered if it was that simple….) Still, since we got Declan’s POV and could see where he was coming from, I have to admit that I mostly fell in love with him.
If you are a fan of heart-wrenching contemporaries, you need this book in your life. Kemmerer manages to pull the reader in and make us love her characters, even through their flaws. I give this book an easy 4.5/5 Stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author
BRIGID KEMMERER is the author of LETTERS TO THE LOST (Bloomsbury; April 4, 2017), a dark, contemporary Young Adult romance; THICKER THAN WATER (Kensington, December 29, 2015), a New Adult paranormal mystery with elements of romance; and the YALSA-nominated Elemental series of five Young Adult novels and three e-novellas which Kirkus Reviews calls “refreshingly human paranormal romance” and School Library Journal describes as “a new take on the supernatural genre.” She lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and four sons.