Star Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Short Reaction: Yikes, mixed feelings.
Published on/by: April 1st 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Page Count: 336 pages
Blurb provided by Goodreads: 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.
I read this book alongside a book-lover friend, Emily (you can follow her on Instagram! http://instagram.com/book.addiction) from June 2nd to June 5th as part of a (hopefully) monthly read-along! To be honest, I didn’t go into this book with high expectations, especially seeing less than stellar reviews from my Goodreads friends. I was prepared for it though, and set my expectations really low…so you can expect my surprise to find that I kind of liked this book. Kind of. I say ‘kind of’, because I realised that I found more things to dislike in this book even though the book wasn’t bad! For starters, the pacing was very easy to get into and it’s a book that you can finish in one sitting. Another thing I liked about this book was the ‘mystery’. We are told that her sister, May, died but we are not informed of the circumstance and was pleased by how it unfolded. The last thing I liked about this book was the cover. Yup, that about sums it up.
The biggest problem I had with this book was how passive and devastatingly annoying the main character, Laurel, was. I was okay with her for the first few letters…but soon I wanted to reach into the book and clock her a few times. She had no personality whatsoever–well, if you count pretending to be someone she’s not…then, that’s Laurel for you. After all the things she learned about her sister, she still wanted to be her, wearing her clothes and her make up and listening to the same music her sister loved. She had no identity whatsoever, and she pretty much ate up every single little thing her sister fed her. She was annoyingly naive and I had hoped for an amazing character development, seeing as the character begged for it, but I was let down. Another character I truly disliked was May herself. She is the very definition of a manic pixie dream girl and in my honest opinion, why Laurel thought she was such a great sister is beyond me. Other than that, I also had a problem with the tone of the book. I mean, who was I kidding? Dear Kurt Cobain was the first line in the book.
Liking the main character, or empathising with her at the very least is incredibly important to me in order to enjoy a book. And although I pretty much disliked the two main characters of this book, I enjoyed the book as a whole. The story was eventful and interesting, there was no lull in the pacing and the supporting characters like Hannah and Natalie were very intriguing. Laurel failed as a protagonist, for me, which pretty much plummeted the ratings.
This is just going to be word vomit from here on out. May was a crappy sister, end of discussion. She repeatedly used Laurel to go see her senior citizen of a boyfriend and she left her thirteen year old sister with his FRIEND whom she barely knew? Are you freaking kidding me? May was selfish and unhinged, clearly. I get that she was hurting over her parent’s divorce but she needed to get a grip. Do not bring your little sister along to your little rendezvous and leave her with a twenty something year old guy to take care of her. Because more often than not, they’re creeps. Creeps who molest your younger sister and steal her innocence. She was so caught up in her hurt that she didn’t really care about Laurel, not really, because if she did she wouldn’t have freaking brought Laurel over. Incredibly selfish, if you ask me.
However, Laurel also infuriated me. She said nothing. This is what I meant by Laurel being incredibly passive. She was entirely clueless and all she thought about was how much she loved May and how much she didn’t want to let go of May and how much she wanted to be in May’s world, that she didn’t even protest or didn’t even tell May about what was happening. She just went with it. And when she decided to tell May? May was shocked for like three seconds before Laurel changed the subject and May decided to pretend to be a fairy again. And to make things worse, history repeats herself when Laurel gets molested again by Blake’s roommate. She didn’t protest, again. It wasn’t clear at all what brought her to be silent and passive in this moment, which infuriated me. Did she feel like she deserved it or something? When I reached the end of the book and learned of the circumstance of May’s death, I saw the parallels. I think that was what Dellaira intended, right? But still, that particular scene was kind of glazed over.
And then another time at the party where guys gave her a pill and told her it was a caffeine pill. Laurel’s stupidity is inexplainable (but of course, not as horrendous as the boy’s actions). I have no words, seriously. NO. WORDS. She took the pill. And then someone else sexually assaulted her again. The part where her boyfriend, Sky, broke up with her? My favourite part of the book. It could’ve been a good pushing point for her to re-evaluate what she was doing with her life because Sky really hit the nail on Laurel’s crazy obsession with trying to be her sister, but she continued down this wannabe manic pixie dream girl path.
I wish I liked this book more, I really do. Sigh.