Archive for Letter-Format Novels

Booktalk: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Love Letters to the Dead cover

This book falls into a rare sub-category of fiction — not just a letter-format novel, but an unanswered letter-format novel (see Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott for another great example).

Love Letters to the Dead is an excellent debut novel that will speak to teen readers looking for realistic fiction about life, death, friendship, and family.  You can learn more about this book on Ava Dellaira’s website or the Love Letters to the Dead website.


Laurel’s assignment for English class is to write a letter to a dead person.  She writes a letter to Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, was a fan of his music.  Kurt Cobain is gone now, and so is May, but Laurel still thinks about both of them.

Laurel is supposed to turn in the letter to her teacher, but she doesn’t.  Instead she writes another letter, and another, and another.  Sometimes she writes to Kurt Cobain, or River Phoenix, or Janis Joplin, or Amelia Earhart, or Amy Winehouse, or Judy Garland, or Jim Morrison, or e.e. cummings, or Heath Ledger.  She writes to dead singers, dead actors, dead poets, dead people who weren’t brave enough or dead people who might have been too brave.  She writes to them about their own lives and about her own life.  She writes about starting over at a new school, about trying to make new friends, about falling in love for the first time.  But she also writes about May, about trying to understand May’s life as well as her death, and about learning to live now that May is gone.

Booktalk: Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott

Love You Hate You Miss You cover

As soon as I read Elizabeth Scott’s amazing novel Living Dead Girl, I knew that she was an author to watch.  Then I read Love You Hate You Miss You, which featured another conflicted protagonist with a powerful voice.  This is a great read for any teens interested in journal-format or letter-format stories, as well as stories about friendship and grief.


Dear Julia.  It’s been 75 days since … well, it’s been 75 days.

I’m going to be leaving rehab soon.  I’d say I was glad, but leaving the Pinewood teen treatment center means going back home and joining that family unit of two parents who fit perfectly together.  The two of them plus me, the daughter they never wanted.  My shrink wants me to keep a journal.  He wants me to document my journey, and write about how I’m emerging from the darkness and moving into the light … or something.

So I decided that I would rather write to you instead.  About how much I miss you.  About how much I remember you every day.  About all the things I ever wanted to tell you, but didn’t.  I still blame myself for what happened, and a lot of other people blame me, too.  Including your mother.  I don’t think she’ll ever forgive me … and I don’t know if I can forgive myself, either.

My family and my doctors want me to go back to having a normal life, but I don’t know if I can do that.  I don’t know if I remember what a normal life is.  And Julia, I don’t know if life is worth living if you won’t be there to share it with me.

Booktalk: Letters From the Inside by John Marsden

Okay, so the first thing you should know is that Letters From the Inside by John Marsden is one of my top ten favorite teen novels.  Scratch that — this book is one of my top FIVE favorite teen novels.  But the second thing you should know is that this is NOT one of my favorite booktalks.

I’m not sure why this booktalk falls below my usual expectations, but I have two theories.  The first is that because I love this book so much, every time I booktalk it and the kids in the class don’t fight each other tooth and nail to read it, I assume that I’ve done a lousy job booktalking it.  My second theory is that because I’m being so careful trying not to reveal the scope of the secrets and lies that the two girls are hiding from each other, my description of the story is so vague that it doesn’t entice the listeners enough.  The challenge of a good booktalk is in revealing enough to entice the readers without revealing too much to spoil the story, and sometimes it’s tricky achieving that balance.

If you learn nothing else from this episode, it’s that each and every one of you should have copies of this book on your library shelves.  And that while you can always read this book yourself and then recommend it to your readers one-on-one, booktalking it without giving away vital plot points might be a challenge.  Just use my booktalk as a starting point … and then write something better!


Tracey put an ad in the paper one day, and Mandy answered it.  Now they’re pen pals, on their way to becoming best friends.  They both have so much to talk about; they share their stories, their hopes, their dreams, and their fears.  No two girls have ever been closer than Tracey and Mandy – or so it seems.

But here’s the reality; one girl is hiding part of the truth, and the other girl is hiding the whole truth.  And when too many secrets and lies build up, the truth will come out.  Tracey and Mandy will soon have their friendship – and their lives – put to the ultimate test.