Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Review: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Pages: 400
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope.  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 Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart."

Juliet's mother is a photojournalist who spends most of the year traveling to dangerous places and taking awe-inspiring photos.  She is due to return from a trip and en route is involved in a fatal car accident leaving behind Juliet and her father.  Juliet's world, obviously, is turned upside down and instead of continuing with her hobby of taking photographs (which reminds her of her mother) and hanging out with friends, she has isolated herself and spends most of her time at her mother's grave writing her letters.  Enough time has passed and now her friends, as well as teachers, are starting to be concerned.  Enter Declan Murphy.  He's the town bad boy who has got caught driving drunk and in turn has to do community service at the cemetery mowing the lawn.  While working at the cemetery, he finds a letter on a grave and reads it.  That letter is Juliet's and he writes a short reply.  This starts an unlikely correspondence between the two and even though they don't know who is actually writing, they realize they both have a lot in common with each other.  Juliet knows that this person is from her hometown and goes to her school, so she could be passing him in the hallway everyday.  The problem is that Juliet does know Declan in real life and let's just say they did not hit it off.  Brigid Kemmerer's Letters to the Lost is one of my favorite books of the year and tugged on my heartstrings.

I really liked the character of Juliet in Letters to the Lost. My heart went out to her as she has so much to deal with at such a young age.  Her mother left a huge hole in her life and she was struggling to fill that void, especially with her dad being in his own little world.  Once Juliet starts communicating with Declan and their notes turn into emails, it started to give her a place to talk and work through her grief.  I absolutely adored Juliet and Declan's emails as it was very reminiscent of You've Got Mail, one of my favorite movies.

The dramatic irony here is that readers know the person writing to Juliet is none-other than troubled Declan Murphy.  She doesn't know this, but we do, which adds a special element to Letters to the Lost. Declan has his own issues.  He is dealing with a death in his life as well and things aren't always as they seem with him.  His home life is really hard and his mother as well as his stepfather are pretty horrible.  Writing to Juliet really helped him cope with his issues as well, but Declan slowly figures out it is Juliet he is writing to and the dynamics in their real relationship shift a bit with this new information.

But what happens when these two star-crossed lovers finally want to meet in real life?  Will Juliet be horrified to know that the person writing her is Declan, who she knows from school and really doesn't like?  But as she starts to get to know Declan in real life a bit more and realizes there is more to him than being the resident bad boy.  Declan starts to wonder if maybe he should tell her that he is the one writing her.  I love that this novel explores the fact that people are more than just their reputations and it's ok to branch out. You may surprise yourself with how much you have in common with someone even though they aren't from your normal social circle and essentially, that is what happened with Juliet.

The writing is so heartfelt in Letters to the Lost. The characters are so wonderful.  Even the secondary characters, such as Rev, are so memorable. Rev was my favorite; he is Declan's best friend and I adored him. Also, I am thrilled that he will be getting his own spin-off novel.

If you are looking for a heartfelt book to read this spring, I urge you to pick up Letters to the Lost. It may make you a bit melancholy from time to time as Juliet and Declan have to deal with so much, but ultimately, it's about hope and finding friendship and maybe even love in unexpected places.


  1. Sounds like a fantastic book! I will definitely be reading it. I like the "You've Got Mail" element to the story though it definitely sounds more serious than that movie.

    1. It really is a great book! Definitely more serious than You've Got Mail, but still that same vibe. I hope you get to read it. Thanks for visiting, Christina!

  2. I was really bummed when I didn't get approved for this book. It sounds like it's worth its weight in gold. Lol. Can't wait to read this even more so now!

    1. It is definitely one of my favorite reads of the year! I hope you get your hands on a copy. Thanks for visiting, Joy!

  3. This does sound very "You've Got Mail", but that works for me because it's one of my fave movies, too :) And there's a Declan in this! Always fun to come across that name, I used to only see it in Irish novels. I can't wait to read this one, I don't think I've seen one bad review for it. It sounds wonderful. Great review, Christina!

    1. I know! I have noticed that Declan is becoming more and more popular. Your son is named Declan as well, right? I think you are going to like this book, Becky. I hope you can read it soon. Thanks for dropping by!


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