Review: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Letters to the Lost is all about Juliet, who leaves letters on her mother’s gravestone as a way to process her grief. Declan is the boy who’s doing community service and stumbles across her letter. He reads it and decides to write back. The pair then communicate through letters and emails, without ever telling each other who the other person is. What’s tricky is that they go to the same school, and while Declan figures out Juliet’s identity, she’s still in the dark.

When I was reading this, I was constantly referring to it as The Princess and the Criminal because, yes, those are the stereotypes of Juliet and Declan. Only when I got to the end did I realise that I was assuming throughout that this was a romance story when, really, there’s almost zero romance. There’s chemistry between the pair, for sure, but it’s mostly a story about two people coming together in a weird and unorthodox way and baring their souls and secrets because there’s nothing to lose.

I loved how intimate and raw their correspondence was. Juliet and Declan’s relationship in real life was so different to when they were anonymous and I was constantly intrigued by how the two versions of themselves would match up. It takes nearly the whole book for identities to be revealed and while that could have so easily annoyed me, the drawn-out uncertainty worked perfectly. Because, as much as this is about two people together, it’s also about them as individuals coming to terms with their own feelings of grief and expectation. There wasn’t one character I preferred over the other and that’s a real feat, to get me to fall in love with both POVs!

It was so cool that Juliet had a passion for photography and Declan for mechanics (Both felt well researched and like they both knew what they were talking about more than just adding filters or changing the oil.) Hobbies isn’t something I see enough, and these felt like they really fit the characters and adding complications to the plot.

The relationships they had with their parental figures…uh, don’t get me started on how complex that all was. By the last fifty pages, I was tearing up at so many of the scenes that revolved around family (including Rev’s, Declan’s best friend, because his back story was just heartbreaking.) The more I think about it, the more I love about this book. So much thought must have gone into every single character because empathy just poured out of me for every one.

So, if you couldn’t tell, I really loved this book. It’s a definite 5 star read, would call a favourite and will definitely reread within the next year. It’s seriously the kind of book I wish I could have written!

If you liked the relationship in All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (but wanted it to be less problematic and consuming) and love Jeff Zentner’s books for their portrayal of complex characters and grief, you’ll hopefully love this as much as I did.

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