I wasn’t supposed to read a book today, especially not a contemporary one about loss, at that.
What I was supposed to do is work on the third draft of my own novel. However, Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer came out of nowhere and sucked me into the life of its two protagonists suffering from guilt and grief. It was an astoundingly quick and easy read, despite its subject matter.
The story starts out with Juliet Young leaving yet another letter at her war journalist mother’s grave. Declan Murphy, a delinquent who’s doing community service at the local cemetery for crashing a car into a building while drunk, finds the letter and decides to write back. And so starts their journey of healing the wounds that have been sustained from all the losses in their lives. Though with time, they figure out they attend the same high school, they decide to stay anonymous, afraid that knowing who the other person is will ruin the bond they’ve formed through their letters and emails. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.
I picked it up because the characters had that A Walk to Remember vibe to them, so yeah. I’d say it was worth it. A solid four stars.
It was a well executed plot with twists and turns that managed to catch me off guard even though I was looking out for them. I can’t say a lot without spoiling some things but I had a bit of an issue with the way some characters were left off in the end, including the two best friends and Frank. Aside from that, I very much enjoyed the way things between the protagonists played out. No, scratch that, I adored it.
Juliet and Declan were wonderful. Since the story was written in first person POV, we really got to see inside their heads. Both of the characters felt real to me and I enjoyed reading from both of their perspectives. And I liked their letters.
Juliet is a nice girl who has been through a very traumatic experience of losing her mother with whom she was very close. Declan is that guy who everybody pegs for a delinquent, a good looking one yes, but a delinquent still. He’s intense and has some anger issues stemming from his harrowing past. Rev is Declan’s best friend and a kid with his own dark and abusive past. He’s kind and shy and supportive and just all kinds of amazing!
The other characters were great as well, including Mr. Mendez, Juliet’s father, the photography and English teachers, Rowan, and Rev’s and Declan’s parents. All the relationships were heartwarming to the core.
The writing was very simple and straightforward. I think that for this story, that style worked extremely well. The strongest aspect of Brigid Kemmerer’s writing would definitely have to be the dialogue. The glorious, heartbreaking, humorous dialogue. Here are my favorite quotes:
“Juliet said she’s glad I’m not me.”
He [Rev] takes a spoonful of cereal but still doesn’t look up. “Maybe you could repeat that in English.”
“She said she’s glad I’m not Declan Murphy.”
“I think I need more information.”
But I don’t get the chance. She turns around and follows Alan into the kitchen. My legs don’t want to hold me anymore. “I’m sorry,” I yell, and my voice breaks. “I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry I didn’t drive him. I’m sorry I let Kerry go. I’m sorry.”
She doesn’t respond. She doesn’t come back. They leave me there on the steps, alone.
He’s standing beside the car, on his cell phone, looking down at the hood. For a tenth of a second, I think about running him over.
Okay, maybe a full second.
Steam is escaping from beneath the hood. Alan looks up as I approach. His face looks expectant. He must be waiting for a tow truck. I see him recognize my car.
I see him wait to see if I’ll stop.
I see a big target in khaki pants and a button-down shirt.
I think it’d be a good indie movie because it has a lot of strong character emotions going for it. And the budget wouldn’t have to be too high. Five million dollars. I know it sounds like a lot but trust me, it’s really not.
And there’s some potential to start off careers of new actors (though the candidates I present you with are not who I imagined while reading the book).
***Proceed at your own risk! If you haven’t read the book and want to imagine your own versions of the characters, halt your scrolling***
Alicia Vikander as Juliet
Gabriel Basso as Declan
Ezra Miller as Rev
Sophie Kennedy Clark as Rowan
Ok, I just realized the actors I’ve cast are not exactly that new or that affordable, so let’s increase that budget, shall we?
Your turn, have you read the book? If not, would you read it after my compelling arguments? If you’ve already read it, what was your favorite part?
I write tips, reviews, and stories if you were wondering.