Letters to the Lost reviewed by Tara

This book should come with the following caution: “Warning. This book is addictive. Do not start to read it unless you have cleared your schedule”. The first chapter ignited my curiosity and my engagement increased with each chapter.

Letters to the Lost opens with a letter from Juliette to her mother, who was recently killed in a hit and run car accident. She is describing a picture from a war zone of a child who survived the death of her parents: Her reality is being ripped away, and she knows it. Her mother is gone, and she knows it. There is agony in that picture. Every time I look at it, I think, “I know exactly how she feels.”

It becomes apparent that the letter is being read by Declan, who is doing community service after school, at the cemetery where Juliette’s mother is buried. Declan identifies with the words. He understands the isolating pain that the words describe. He replies with a simple phrase.

His reply shocks Juliette and incites an angry response. The correspondence progresses from there as two teenagers, who until this point have been blindly stumbling in alone in a dark cloud of grief, bump into each other and wrestle together with their questions about death and life. As they correspond, the fog starts to evaporate and each of them begin to see how to move forward.

The letters provide a smooth transition for the alternating viewpoint and draw the reader into the story. It was intriguing to be reading this intensely private conversation. Initially, I was caught up in the correspondence between them and kept turning the pages to discover what the next reply would be. As the story progressed my attention seamlessly shifted from the correspondence to the characters’ thoughts and actions after reading the letter and the possibilities that their identities would be revealed.

The characters were raw and realistic, displaying their innermost thoughts in the perceived safety of anonymous correspondence. The storyline is full of energy and well-paced, with several unexpected twists. It is well written and engaging. I really enjoyed reading it. From the moment I picked it up, I found it hard to put it down. Marketed as a young adult book, Letters to the Lost would appeal to teenagers and adults.

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