Letters to the Lost – Brigid Kemmerer – Bloomsbury Children’s – Published 6 April 2017
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.
Heartbreaking and uplifting, Letters To The Lost is a glorious story of two teens finding each other in the midst of crisis and learning to look past the facades of those around them.
Juliet is supposed to be moving on after the death of her mother. That’s what everyone around her expects. But she can’t stop visiting her mother’s grave or leaving letters for her. Declan is serving his community service sentence mowing lawns at the local cemetery. When he finds a letter at the base of a grave he doesn’t expect the words to hit deep inside. Writing back is impetuous but it sparks a written relationship that might just be the thing to hold him together when the rest of his world threatens to explode.
I wasn’t expecting it, but this book turned into a bit of a “You’ve Got Mail” retelling, but with a whole lot more angst and heartbreak. There have been many, many novels who claim to be the next “You’ve Got Mail” and I don’t think one of them has ever pulled it off like this book does. Letters To The Lost doesn’t boast that similarity, but it takes the best bits of that iconic written relationship – two people writing to each other, one finding out before the other, two opposites attracting and repelling at the same time – and adds deeper layers. I loved it.
It is well known that I love Brigid Kemmerer’s writing. She could make any story great and I love what she has done with Letters To the Lost. It is the perfect mix of sad, touching, funny, eye opening, and downright enjoyable. I love stories where the protagonists must fight to overcome their situations. Both Declan and Juliet have tales that would knock down and keep down lesser souls. Instead they rail, they fight. The world might judge them for their attitude, but for them survival is everything. Connecting with a stranger who understands, in some way, their pain is amazing. They also learn to look beyond that first judgement, both of themselves and the people around them.
I love Juliet and Declan’s relationship, both face-to-face and written. On the page they can be brutally, totally honest with each other. But when face-to-face the walls they have put up to protect themselves prevent them from seeing beyond the harsh exteriors and even harsher words they throw at each other.
But romance is not all this layered novel has to offer. I loved the exploration of family in this book. Supportive family relationships, family who are not as perfect as they seem, family secrets, family tragedy, family heartbreak, family that is founded outside of blood, family found in friendship and brotherhood. The cast of secondary characters is particularly strong in Letters To The Lost. Both Declan and Juliet have a support best-friend who plays an important part in this story. I also liked the roles of two particular teachers and Declan’s community service supervisor. It’s awesome to see such positive adult roles.
Letters To The Lost is a beautiful and touching romance about finding hope and safety in honesty, friendship, and starting over.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Death, grief, alcohol use, family, written relationships, romance.
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Advisory: Mature themes surrounding death and alcohol use. Very infrequent coarse language, sh** (1), douc***.
Published: 6 April 2017 Bloomsbury Children’s
Format: Paperback, Hardcover (USA), ebook. 400 pages.