Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer, Bloomsbury USA Childrens (April 4, 2017). ISBN: 9781681190082. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.
Ever heard the expression ‘frozen in grief’? That’s where Juliet finds herself. Her mother, a world class photojournalist, was killed on the way from the airport while returning from an assignment. Juliet blames herself because she was impatient and pressed Mom to get home. She’s shed friends, interests, decent grades and has become a shell. Her method of coping is to write letters and leave them by her mother’s headstone.
Declan is locked in his own grief, but deals with it by surrounding himself with a giant bubble of anger. It’s been growing and festering since his alcoholic father had an accident that killed his little sister. He blames himself for it happening. His mother divorced his dad and remarried. The relationship between them, as well as the non-relationship with his new stepfather is cold, fragile and full of friction. It hit the breaking point when Declan took his father’s truck and ran it into a building.
When he finds one of Julia’s letters during his court ordered community service while mowing the cemetery, something has him write a reply. It’s impulsive and uncharacteristic, but as the back and forth on paper continues, both feel better.
At the same time, they begin to connect at school, although neither knows that the other answers the letters. It’s not long before the soul baring goes electronic when each teen creates a new email account just to share stuff. Add in incredibly supportive friends, the ultimate disclosure about their secret connection and you have one heck of an emotional story.
This is an excellent book for all libraries to own, not only because of the quality of the story, but because it has the power to reach teens who are locked in a similar cage of grief.