I first heard about this book on Shelf Awareness and reserved it right away. Laurel is going to a new high school because her sister, May died six months ago and she wants a fresh start. She tells her story in letters to the dead such as Kurt Cobain, Judy Garland, Amy Winehouse and Amelia Earhart. Laurel channels her sister’s spark to make friends and try to find love. This book is beautifully written by Eva Dellaira. Laurel draws on the strength and character of the dead as she navigates her new normal. Her mother left, moving far away because of her grief. Laurel spends alternating weeks with her father whose grief makes him shut down and her extremely religious aunt. May is a mystery during much of the book. We are given clues as the story unfolds about what exactly happened to her, the events that lead up to her death and Laurel’s feelings of guilt over them. Reading about the famous dead, I wanted to explore them. I read Kurt Cobain’s suicide letter, which made me profoundly sad and looked at photos of Janis Joplin’s psychedelic Porsche, which made me profoundly happy. Reading this book, I was cheering for Laurel as she discovers who she is without her sister and how she grows in her experiences. It is also a wonderful love story between two imperfect people battling their own demons. This is a beautiful story that I highly recommend to all. This is a debut novel for Dellaira. I hope she writes more! I also hope the Printz committee will give this one a good look. Fans of the iconic, Perks Of Being A Wallflower, will love it!
Ideas for discussing with teens:
Which dead people would you write to, and why?
Discuss when Laurel says this about Sky, “He reminds me that the air isn’t just something that’s there. It’s something you breathe in.” (pg 2)
Discuss this passage where Laurel talks about Amelia Earhart, “It wasn’t so much the dying I was jealous of. It was the flying, and the disappearing.” (Pg 18)
Discuss this passage on page, 13 about Judy Garland. “I read that you said your first memory was music. Music that fills up a home. And one day, suddenly the music could escape through a window. For the rest of your life, you had to chase it.”
What do think Janis Joplin and Kristen mean by “regular weird people.”
Discuss this passage about Kurt Cobain, “I think that’s why he’s so loud. I mean, he has to be. Because he’s staring the monster in the face, and the only thing to do is fight back.” (pg. 87)
Discuss this passage, “the world seems like a tunnel of silence. I have found that sometimes, moments got stuck in your body. There are there, lodged under your skin like hard seed-stones of wonder or sadness or fear, everything else growing up around them.” (pg. 184)
Talk about the line in Kurt Cobain’s letter, “I simply love people… so much that it makes me feel so fucking sad.” (pg. 187)
Discuss where Laurel talks about River Pheonix with the line, “Do you think that everyone gets to be a star like that? They don’t get to be as beautiful as you were. And you just wanted to burn up.” (pg. 199)
Discuss when Tristan tells Laurel, “But when you realize that the wolf is inside you, that’s when you know. You can’t run from it. And no one who lives you can kill the wolf, because it’s part of you. They see your face on it. And they won’t fire a shot.” (pg. 227)
Discuss when Laurel compares Hannah’s bravery to Amelia Earhart flying across the ocean.
Discuss Jim Morrison’s quote, “A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself- and especially to feel or not feel.” (pg. 264)
Discuss when Laurel writes, “I am letting the world open me.” (pg. 322)