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. From Goodreads.
I've been a huge fan of Brigid Kemmerer since I first read Storm, the first book in the Elemental series, back in 2012. So when I was sent a proof of Letters to the Lost for review, I was super excited. And I am so, so happy I can continue raving about Kemmerer's brilliant writing, because this was just beautiful.
It's been quite a while since I've read anything by Kemmerer. Thicker Than Water, a standalone novel I believe, was released after the Elemental series came to an end. I have it, but I'm yet to read it, and I think it was because the Elemental series was so good, and I was just really upset that the series ended. I guess I kind of worried that it might not be as good? But when Letters to the Lost landed in my lap, I was overjoyed. It was kind of a little reminder, "Hey, Jo, you do know Brigid Kemmerer has written other books, right?" And I was so excited to read it!
Letters to the Lost is Kemmerer's first foray into contemporary romance; the Elemental series is paranormal/urban fantasy, but I'm unsure of the genre of Thicker Than Water. It didn't worry me that Kemmerer had switched genres for Letters to the Lost, because, although the Elemental series is paranormal/urban fantasy, there were always real life elements to the stories - not just romance, but real issues. And I was right to not be worried. If anything, I should have maybe expected Letters to the Lost to be a lot more emotional and hard-hitting. I expected it to be a sweet story of romance blossoming as Juliet and Declan bonded over their grief, through their letters. And although that is what happens, there's also so much else going on, for both characters.
Declan's little sister Kerry died four years ago, when their dad was drink driving, and Declan blames himself. His mother has remarried, and he feels like an outsider in his own home. Alan, his step-father gives him so much crap, expecting him to mess up and so something wrong, time and again. His mother has pretty much closed herself off to him. How do you cope when you're struggling with grief and guilt, your mother doesn't want to know, and your step-father is just waiting for you to put a foot wrong? Juliet is also dealing with guilt over her mother's death. Her mother was a photographer who worked in war zones, and Juliet had begged her to come home early. She did, and then she was killed in a hit and run. If Juliet hadn't asked her mum to come home early, she wouldn't have been in that taxi, and she wouldn't have died. Juliet herself is a pretty talented photographer, but she hasn't been able to touch a camera since, out of guilt and grief, and out of not feeling that she would ever be as good as her mum.
As I said, it's a hell of a lot more emotional and hard-hitting than I expected, especially in regards to Declan's story. I got so angry and how he was being treated, how his family just didn't seem to care. I was so upset for him. He was hurting, and has been for such a long time, and he just seems to get rejection after rejection from those who are supposed to love him. He's carrying too much weight, too much guilt over something that should have never been his problem in the first place, and it upset me so much more than I can express. Four years. He's been dealing with this for four years, and no-one has told him it wasn't his fault. Thank god for Frank Melendez, who Declan works for at community service, and for Mrs. Hillard, his English teacher who sees him and gives him a chance, rather than dismissing him as a delinquent, a lost cause who will amount to nothing. And thank god for the connection he finds through writing to Juliet.
If I had anything negative to say about this book, it would be the ending. It ended far too quickly for me. All the things that were wrong were suddenly not quite as bad too quickly, too easily. And for a romance, I just wish it hadn't ended quite where it ended. I would have liked to have seen more, to have seen what came after that. Thankfully, there is going to be a companion novel, as Rev, Declan's best friend, will be getting his own book, More Than We Can Tell, and I am so glad! Not only because he is such an awesome character with a terrible, traumatic past, but he was just so lovely. And being Declan's best friend, and considering how much of a part he played in Declan's story, I'm assuming Declan will play as big a part in Rev's story, in which case, I'll get to know more about what happened after the ending of Letters to the Lost.
This book is beautiful, moving, heartbreaking, but also incredibly sweet. I loved the romance between Juliet and Declan, but I loved their own individual stories more, and how they were able to help each other with their own problems. Such a fantastic story. And I loved getting back to Kemmerer's writing so much, I immediately started reading Thicker Than Water straight after finishing. A wonderful, wonderful book.
Thank you to Bloomsbury Children's Books for the proof.
Published: 6th April 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Brigid Kemmerer's Website
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