All The Books I Can Read

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Review: Letters To The Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

on April 6, 2017

Letters To The Lost
Brigid Kemmerer
Bloomsbury ANZ
2017, 400p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Juliet Young has always written 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 of them knows that they’re not actually strangers. When real life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart. This emotional, compulsively-readable romance will sweep everyone off their feet.

Oh wow. This book gave me all of the feels!

And it was exactly what I needed. A few books I’d read recently were alright but didn’t really provoke a reaction in me one way or another. I didn’t die hard love them but I didn’t dislike them either. But I was left wanting more and so I decided to try something a bit different to what I’d been reading and I remembered that I had this waiting on my kindle. I really have enjoyed the previous Brigid Kemmerer books that I’d read so I figured it was a good time to crack this one.

Perfect, perfect choice. This book had so much emotion in it and to be honest, mostly what comes up off the page is pain. Both Juliet and Declan are both suffering so much. In many ways what they are grieving is very similar. Juliet’s mother recently (as in a few months ago) was killed in an accident and the way that Juliet connects with her now, is to write her letters. She always did this as her mother was a photographer who travelled the world, only now Juliet leaves the letters on her mothers grave. Declan is also grieving the loss of a parent who is not dead but almost might as well be. Declan isn’t also just grieving, he is furious and guilty and torn up inside. His family is in upheaval and he feels that he no longer has a role, a place there and that tears him up as well.

A little while ago Declan did something stupid that resulted in court-ordered community service and now he works at the graveyard where he finds one of Juliet’s letters to her mother during clean up before mowing. Unthinkingly he writes back and when Juliet discovers that someone has read her private letter, she’s incensed, so she writes back. Despite that, they connect – perhaps through some shared suffering. Soon they have moved on from leaving letters on the grave to creating anonymous emails and chatting and emailing that way. They both go to the same school and could choose to confide their identities but they instead decide to remain anonymous, probably preferring the freedom it gives for them to be completely honest. But being in such close proximity means that they can’t stay anonymous forever – what will happen when Juliet realises that the person she’s been confiding in is Declan Murphy, the guy who is kind of douchey to her at school? In person, Declan’s first response often tends to be anger or aggression – frustration coming out generally about other people’s perceptions of him. I really appreciated the moments with his English teacher who has seen glimpses of something in Declan, something much more than just an angry lack of interest in his school work and she really pushes him to let his natural intelligence come out. She’s not turned away by his tough facade and she’s one of the few people that really seems to see Declan as something more.

Juliet seems to feel that people want her to ‘move on’ now, begin to act ‘normally’ again – but she can’t do that. She’s not sure she’ll ever be able to do that. It felt like it was probably a bit too soon for people to be expecting that of Juliet, but perhaps by trying to immerse her in things, such as her photography, they figure they might help her healing process. Toss her in at the deep end and eventually she’ll learn to swim type of thing. Juliet feels sick at the thought of even picking up a camera but her teacher is able to well, bribe her really and it’s through those small actions such as photographing things for the school year book, going to a school dance, that spark moments and interactions. Some make her furious – but they make her feel things other than grief. She’s been struggling to connect with her father since her mother died and his talk of selling her mother’s cameras has her so incensed that he could even consider it. For Juliet I think her cameras are her mother’s essence, that one thing that she can still tangibly have/hold/etc in her life that represent her.

Both Declan and Juliet’s stories were so tragic and both were full of a few of surprises. Declan’s story had more layers than I imagined and Juliet’s journey of discovery about her mother led to some uncomfortable truths but also gave her the opportunity to finally be able to talk to her father. I loved Declan and Juliet both in their interactions with each other (as themselves and as their alter anonymous egos) and I loved them separately. I felt that this had such a realistic tinge to it – nothing was ‘fixed’ magically – there were small improvements, ways forward but both of them still have a lot to work through. The chemistry between them was powerful in all forms – even in their negative interactions before they figure out who they’re talking to. Declan is the sort of guy I really like reading about, the misunderstood juvie contender. I’m glad he finally got some validation for his feelings and there was an attempt to make him see that he shouldn’t ever have been put in the position that he was.

I loved this book – it kind of put me through the wringer reading it but that was pretty much what I wanted. I thought that both Juliet and Declan were amazing characters, flawed and beautifully believable. I loved their interactions, really enjoyed the way in which they could be brutally honest, brutally themselves without hiding anything in the emails. I adored the supporting characters too – Declan’s teacher, Juliet’s best friend, her photography student rival and most of all, Declan’s best friend Rev who is getting his own book. This excites me so much because much is hinted about Rev but there’s still so much to learn. Bring it on. I can’t wait!

9/10

Book #62 of 2017

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One response to “Review: Letters To The Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

  1. You know, in my opinion it’s always about the emotional connection you make with the characters. And it doesn’t matter if the book is literary fiction, romance, YA, paranormal, mystery, or memoir. This one obviously made you feel the connection. That’s enough for me to put it in my TBP pile.

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