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- ISBN-13: 9780374346676
- ISBN-10: 0374346674
- Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
- Publish Date: April 2014
- Page Count: 327
- Reading Level: Ages 12-18
- Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.9 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-02-10
- Reviewer: Staff
Everything Laurel knows about high school, she learned from her older sister, but after May’s death, Laurel has to start freshman year on her own. After getting an assignment to write to someone who’s died, Laurel keeps going, and the book is structured as a journal in letters to Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, River Phoenix, Judy Garland, and others. Laurel uses the letters to talk about both the past and the unfolding present, especially the friends she makes, who are also struggling with the problems that played a role in May’s life and death. Debut author Dellaira gives Laurel a poet’s eye: when she first makes eye contact with the boy she has a crush on, it feels like “fireflies lighting under my skin.” Although Dellaria writes beautifully, the pervading melancholy feels one-note at times, and the letter format can get wearying, especially when Laurel tells the recipients about their own careers, the epistolary equivalent of expository dialogue. That said, Laurel and her friends’ struggles and hard-won successes are poignant, and seeing Laurel begin to forgive herself and May is extremely moving. Ages 12–up. Agent: Richard Florest, Rob Weisbach Creative Management. (Apr.)
With a little help from my friends
Near Albuquerque, New Mexico, a teenager struggles to define herself in the aftermath of her parents’ divorce, the harsh newness of high school life and the recent death of her sister.
Laurel’s childhood innocence came to a sudden end when May, her beloved older sister, was killed just when Laurel was transitioning between middle school and high school. In the wake of the tragedy, Laurel’s mom split from the family and escaped to the California coast to clear her head. Laurel’s father has remained, but the death of his oldest child weighs heavily on him. To avoid an atmosphere of constant sadness and pain, Laurel chooses to attend a high school where nobody knows her family history. She doesn’t want anybody’s pity.
As she tries to fit in, Laurel befriends the eccentric and chain-smoking Natalie and Hannah, catches the eye of the mysterious and attractive Sky, and gets taken under the wing of kindly rebellious couple Tristan and Kristen. All the while, Laurel chronicles her grief process by writing letters to her deceased idols, starting with Kurt Cobain. But eventually Laurel will have to reveal her true self to her loved ones still living, or else risk losing their companionship forever.
Debut author Ava Dellaira earned her MFA in Poetry from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and has worked under the famous Stephen Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Dellaira even mimics Chbosky’s narrative device of addressing letters to people who may never read them, allowing her protagonist to be immensely honest and open. Dellaira handles these delicate subjects with such innocent deftness that it’s easy to forget this is a work of fiction.
Justin Barisich is a freelancer, satirist, poet and performer living in Atlanta. More of his writing can be found at littlewritingman.com.