I really enjoyed this book. Okay, maybe I loved it. I requested and received a digital ARC from NetGalley.
It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.
It's written as letters to dead people (obviously) and normally I don't like this kind of thing (sorry, Stephen Chbotsky) but Ms. Dellaira does a great job with this book. Laurel, the author of the letters, has lost her sister, and in the beginning, all we know is that she feels guilty about this. She has defined herself through her sister, her family, and when she loses these things, she loses her way.
While Laurel feels lost and scared, she actually does a great job of being introspective - examining her life, and the lives of people around her. We manage to get a great view of everything in her world through these letters, and through her similarities with the famous people she writes too.
She also mentions some favorite high school things that have/had lots of meaning for me - my high school crush (now husband) loved Nirvana and my favorite song of theirs is mentioned several times - Heart Shaped Box. She also mentions after shock, a cinnamon alcoholic beverage I was a fan of as a teen, and Cool Runnings, so bonus points for the flashbacks :)
Here are some good quotes to help you to get a vibe for the book:
Since she's been gone, it's hard to be myself, because I don't know exactly who I am.
His eyes were like your voice - keys to a place in me that could burst open.
Your daddy would carry you outside, and it was time to drive home in his big car, like a boat swimming over the dark asphalt surface of the earth.
I think a lot of people want to be someone, but we are scared that if we try, we won't be as good as everyone imagines we would be.
The song choice for this one is obvious.