LETTERS TO THE LOST
I stand by my belief that some books you read at exactly the right time. If you read them too early, or too late, they wouldn't affect you in the same way. I felt this way about All the Bright Places and now I feel the same about Letters to the Lost.
I picked this book up at the used book sale (a.k.a my favorite event(s) of year) and it was a random pick up. Because I have a history of just buying books based on the cover and adding to my already too-large pile of TBR, this year I decided to only buy books I'd heard of and wanted to read. But Letters to the Lost was an exception. I loved the cover but I also loved the jacket copy, and I made an exception and took home a book I'd never heard about. Of course, it's been sitting on my shelf for months (as most of my books have at this point) but honestly, I'll be surprised if any of the others I picked up at the sale will even compare.
Like many others, I struggle with depression. It's my own inner battle, something I keep to myself and manage the best that I can. It's been worse this year after the loss of my dog and my reading slump has been a bit too strong to overcome more often than not. Lately, I've felt the darkness deepen and it's time like this when I want to read books that make me feel a little less alone–not that I am, I know that many people have depression and feel similarly. But I like to read more than I like to talk to people. You get it. I know you do.
Letters to the Lost features Declan and Juliet. Declan has had the worst year of his life. Everyone believes he's just a no good kid, destined to end up like his father and live his life in prison. Only Rev, his best friend, sees any good in Declan. Kids at school are afraid of him or aren't and never fail to remind him that he's a lowlife criminal. Teachers are shocked he can read and would rather call security than ask him a question. His community service manager and his own step-father frequently remind him that he's one phone call away from jail if he so much as breathes in the wrong direction. Declan doesn't have the time or the patience to correct them. Not when he's barely keeping his head above water, missing his emotionally absent mother, his dead younger sister, his imprisoned father.
Juliet is having a hard time. Since her mother's death in a hit-and-run accident, Juliet has lost her passion for photography, for school, for everything, really, and the only way she still feels connected to her mother is in the letters she writes and leaves at her gravestone. They make her feel better, just a little bit, even though her mother will never read them. The dead don't read letters, after all. Except someone does read her letter and writes back. Even though Juliet's letter in response to the invasion of privacy comes from anger, the subsequent correspondence comes from a place of unity, because the anonymous person on the other end does understand grief, does understand what guilt feels like, does get her. And she gets him, whoever he is.
I loved that this book displays depression and grief as messy, angry, sad, suicidal, desperate, and sorrowful. It's always all of those things and sometimes none. And what's felt by one person is not projected the same by another. That's where depression can be common and yet singular in so many ways. Every person's experience and journey toward healing is different and along a different timeline. I loved how honest this book was– that sometimes when you're deep in the darkness, you feel like you're insignificant, and you want to put an end to that insiginificance because no one cares anyway. But people do. You're loved and cared for even when it doesn't feel like it.
Like any book, there are things I wanted to see more of. I wanted more resolution between Declan and his mother and resolution with his father. I wanted more of a final bringing together of Declan and Juliet. I wanted more of Juliet's anger with her mother and what that would look like moving forward. But in the end, I loved this book, and I'm so glad I made an exception.