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When Life Hands You a Heavy Bag of Heartache, Write About It ⇉ Review of Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Thursday, August 3, 2017
I enjoy contemporary novels that feel like they could have taken place "for reals." Like they aren't just a story with drama added for the sake of drama. Letters to the Lost provides just that.

Juliet and Declan are from different walks of life. In another time and place, their paths probably wouldn't have crossed. (Okay, that part is pretty cheesy.) What's pretty neat about this book is that it shows us how death and grief have the power to cross social barriers and unite hurting people. Juliet is more than the girl whose mother died, and Declan is more than the boy who got thrown in jail. They are real, living, breathing humans who are hurting so much that they don't know what to do with their grief except to write about it.

What I don't like so much is how the two become so reliant on their anonymous letters to each other. It's understandable given their age, but it has a cautionary Romeo & Juliet feel (except there is no caution involved). They feel very strong emotions; without another outlet, it all comes pouring out in their letters to each other. I don't think another human can solve all of our problems. When something happens, to whom can we turn?

I do like how family members active players in the characters' lives. The parents in this novel have the power to hurt and to heal. Juliet and Declan also have good friends who are constants in their lives. (They don't disappear!!! Though one is more active than the other.) Many contemporary issues are addressed in this novel as well. These issues cause some drama, but it's done well and, despite some blow ups, the teens handle the end transitions pretty well for their age.


Overall, in spite of some parts with which I don't agree, I enjoyed this novel. It is well written and addresses many contemporary issues that are relevant to teens today. I would recommend this novel to those looking for a darker contemporary that addresses contemporary issues.


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.



If you were to write a letter to a family member, living or deceased, what would you tell him or her?

Publication Info
  • Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
  • Published by Bloomsbury USA Children's
  • On April 4, 2017
  • Genres: Contemporary
  • Pages: 400 Pages
  • Format: Hardback
  • N/A
Mature Content
  • Language
  • Alcohol, underaged drinking
  • Death & Grief
  • Fostercare
  • Some violence
  • Kissing
  • Nudity / bed scenes described once - not the teens though

2 comments on "When Life Hands You a Heavy Bag of Heartache, Write About It ⇉ Review of Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer"
  1. I think grief has the power to be both uniting and divisive. We all deal with grief in our own way, so our reactionary actions will always vary.

    1. I agree that people handle grief in different ways. As discussed in this review post, the main characters in Letters to the Lost deal with it by writing


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