“Dellaira has either experienced sibling loss or done good research, because her themes ring true: the way younger survivors feel lost without the map of their older sibling’s precedent; the sense of being abandoned by their grieving parents; and the identity crisis that can come when the person they defined themselves against is gone.” — The New York Times Book Review
It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was—lovely and amazing and deeply flawed—can she begin to discover her own path.
Ava Dellaira is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she was a Truman Capote Fellow. She grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago. She was an associate producer of Stephen Chbosky's feature film adaptation of his bestselling novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower. She currently lives in Los Angeles.
Published Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers in 2014.
More praise for Love Letters to the Dead:
“Well-paced and cleverly plotted, this debut uses a fresh, new voice to tell a sometimes sad, sometimes edgy, but always compelling narrative. Fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han, get ready.” —Booklist, starred review
“Beautifully written…this powerful novel deftly illustrates the concept that writing is an especially valuable form of healing for those dealing with overwhelming pain and grief.” — School Library Journal
“Dellaira’s characters are authentically conceived and beautifully drawn.” ― The Horn Book
“Dear Ava Dellaira: Your book broke my heart, and pieced it back together. As with Kurt, Janis, Amelia and the others who are gone but still somehow here, Love Letters to the Dead leaves an indelible mark.” — Gayle Forman, author of If I Stay and Just One Day
“I simply loved this book. With every page, I was moved by the powerful emotion and eloquent prose. Love Letters to the Dead is more than a stunning debut. It is the announcement of a bold new literary voice.” — Stephen Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower
“A brilliant story about the courage it takes to keep living after your world falls apart. A heart-wrenching celebration of love and friendship and family.”
— Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak
“As wondrous--and as fearless--as a shooting star.” ― Lauren Myracle, author of The Winnie Years
“Riveting, captivating, utterly disarming. I could not put this book down! Love Letters to the Dead is like discovering a shoebox full of notes addressed to someone else. I read fast, afraid I'd be caught peeking at something I wasn't ever supposed to see. A voyeuristic delight!”
― Siobhan Vivian, author of The List
In Search of Us
“Spectacular…Readers will be left sobbing, both for the characters they’ve come to love and for the state of the country—Dellaira draws on persistent racial divides to craft an ending that is surprising yet inevitable, heartbreaking, and hopeful.”— Publishers Weekly starred review
The author of the beloved Love Letters to the Dead returns with a parallel YA story of a mother and daughter each at age seventeen.
Everyone is searching for something.
Marilyn is in search of freedom. She grew up as a child actor, her mother’s meal ticket out of mediocrity. But it’s been a long time since she booked a job, and without her contribution to their meager income, she and her mom have no choice but to move in with her volatile uncle. Marilyn is counting down the days until she can escape to college, and the promise making her own future. That is, until she falls in love with James, the boy downstairs, who shows her that her life is worth living in the present. At seventeen, Marilyn is about to learn that everything can change in an instant.
Angie is in search of answers. She is biracial and has never met her father, but she looks and thinks a lot like him—down to her brown skin, curly hair, and thirst for knowledge. Though Angie grew up with her devoted white mother, Marilyn, she’s always felt the absence of the man she never knew. But after discovering that her mom has been lying to her, Angie sets off on a road trip to Los Angeles, in search of an unknown uncle—and maybe even her dad. At seventeen, she hopes to finally find out the truth about where she came from so she can discover who she truly is.
Told from two perspectives, Marilyn’s set in Los Angeles in the late 1990s and Angie’s in modern times, In Search Of Us is a sweeping intergenerational story about mothers and daughters, love and loss, holding on and letting go.
Published Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers in 2018.
More praise for In Search of Us:
“Achingly vibrant…A compelling intergenerational tale.”— Kirkus Reviews
“A coming-of-age novel about all kinds of love, this is a realistic look into how teens’ lives intertwine with their parents’ pasts…. Readers who enjoyed Dellaira’s Love Letters to the Dead or Emery Lord’s When We Collided will fall in love with this title.” — School Library Journal
“Engaging...the most poignant aspect of the story is Angie’s need to connect with the African American side of her family...this novel offers a thoughtful examination of racial identity, which will likely be relevant to many teens.” — Booklist
“Get the tissues ready for this dual love story told across multiple generations...The way the two stories collide is heartbreaking, but it tragically feels so inevitable as it touches on issues of racism, bigotry, privilege, and the separations that still exist in our country.” — Bustle
“Through both stories, Dellaira explores the complexities of relationships, particularly between mothers and daughters, while also examining racial identity. She successfully uses photography as a metaphor to demonstrate how people can view the same subjects from many different perspectives. Beautiful prose makes this novel perfect for readers who appreciate layered meaning and vivid, original imagery.” — VOYA
“Dellaira breathes her characters into vivid life, Marilyn with her yearning and her loneliness, James with his dreams. The story of their romance, their discovery of each other is beautifully told….The heart-rending tragedy at the center of the novel is revealed only toward the end—a life-changing moment frozen in amber, with a haunting and terrible resonance for readers in the year 2018.” — The Buffalo News
“A rare and special book. Part mother-daughter love story, part road trip journey, part compelling mystery, and one hundred percent beautiful, spellbinding tearjerker. I’m in love with every page.” — Jennifer Niven, New York Times bestselling author of All the Bright Places and Holding Up the Universe
“A masterful work of fiction. Exploring race and mother and daughter relationships, this novel is also one of the most tender and authentic takes on first love that I have ever read.” — Jennifer Mathieu, author of MOXIE