You’ve Got Mail with Added Emotional Baggage: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Since I first started getting into YA contemporary a few years back, there have been some misses, some solidly enjoyable reads, and a few books that have made me sit there and go, ‘Wow, I really loved that’. Letters to the Lost falls squarely within category three. This is a story that’s honest, emotionally deep, fantastically written, and somehow enjoyable, despite its often sad content.

Who, What Where?

LTTL follows high school seniors Juliet and Declan. Juliet, still grieving the death of her mother killed in a hit and run several months ago, is having difficulty moving on with her life. She takes comfort in writing letters to her mother as if she were still alive and leaves them at her grave. Declan is serving community service at the local cemetery as punishment for drunk driving a car into an office building. After finding one of Juliet’s letters among the headstones, Declan finds himself writing a reply. And so begins an exchange of anonymous letters that will have a profound impact on them both.

Dealing & Moving On

I thoroughly enjoyed the plot of LTTL. The novel has three main overarching storylines: 1) Juliet coming to terms with her mother’s death and trying to engage in life again, 2) Declan dealing with his past family trauma and current family difficulties, and 3) the relationship between the two characters. Each of these stories is given a great degree of attention and depth, and all three are seen through to a satisfying conclusion. As a reader, seeing Juliet and Declan work to overcome their demons and emotional weights is extremely cathartic, and I’ll admit, there were several scenes towards the end that had me feeling some intense…things. Yet, I will say that there are some aspects of the story that do verge into melodramatic territory, but if you can get on board with this early you’ll likely enjoy the ride.

You Get Me

The relationship between Juliet and Declan is beautifully handled and layered. On the one hand, we have their written relationship in which the two feel comfortable to share their guilt, grief, secrets and thoughts about life within the safety of anonymity. At the same time, we also have their real-life interactions which, while starting off on very shaky ground, eventually grow and develop as they come to know more about one another. It’s the perfect example of why you shouldn’t judge someone before you truly know them or what they’ve been through.

Characters, Big & Small

Although the writing is amazing, it’s the characters that really made me fall in love with this one.

Declan: On the surface, Declan seems very much like the aggressive, angsty bad boy with a terrible reputation and we see this clearly from Juliet’s early interactions with him. However, Kemmerer wonderfully pulls back the layers on Declan bit by bit to reveal this caring, smart and guilt-wracked person who I so badly wanted to see find some peace, kindness and closure.

Juliet: Unlike Declan, I took some time warming up to Juliet as her grief makes her a little prickly in the earlier stages of the book. As the story goes on though, we get to understand and empathise with her a lot more. I loved seeing her open up to Declan in her letters/e-mails and using these conversations as encouragement to make changes in her life, especially where it came to her friends, family and photography.

Rev: Declan’s friend, Rev, was easily one of the best characters in the book. As an abuse survivor, Rev has his own internal battles to deal with, but he’s also a great friend, kind of awkward, very sweet, and in possession of a dry sense of humour. With this much potential, I’m really looking forward to seeing him in a lead role in More Than We Can Tell.

Wonderful Adults Galore: Can I just give a big shout out to all the gorgeous adult characters in this book. Sure, there’s definitely a few…not so good ones, but the others definitely make up for them in spades (especially since I find that adults frequently get the shaft in YA contemporaries). There’s Mr. Gerardi, who encourages Juliet to get back into photography, Mrs Hillard, who pushes Declan academically and persists despite resistance, Juliet’s dad, a massive sweetheart just trying to do the best for his daughter, and “Melonhead”, Declan’s community service supervisor, who helps him talk through some of his feelings and experiences.

You’ve Got Mail

The writing in LTTL is A+. The story alternates between Juliet and Declan’s first-person perspectives and their letters/e-mails to each other. These letters were one of my favourite parts of the novel as they showcase Juliet and Declan gradually opening up to and trusting one another with intimately personal details about their lives as well as thoughts they’ve never spoken about with anyone. This style choice also allowed for the seamless transition between the two characters’ POVs. These were fantastically done as well, with each character possessing an individual voice and Kemmerer able to perfectly capture their emotions on the page in a way that I couldn’t help but connect with them. 


While I may not have been able to fully get aboard the Kemmerer fantasy train with A Curse so Dark and Lonely, I am 100% full steam ahead when it comes to her YA contemporaries. LTTL is not a light book by any means, but despite its moments of over the top drama, it always feels true, raw, and compelling. After a book that’ll make you feel some things but is still enjoyable? This is the ticket.

4.5 Stars

Upcoming Releases: June 2019

Sorcery of Thorns – Margaret Rogerson (June 4) | GR

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Elisabeth dreams of being a warden at one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries – those tasked with protecting the kingdom from magical grimoires which have the potential to transform into monsters. When an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire, Elisabeth is implicated and sent to the capital to face justice. Left with no one to turn to, she finds an unexpected ally in the mysterious sorcerer, Nathaniel Thorn. As Elisabeth’s alliance with Nathaniel grows, she finds herself questioning everything she’s been taught about the evil of sorcerers, the Great Libraries, and herself, and soon becomes entangled in a conspiracy that could mean not only the end of the libraries but the world.


Magic for Liars – Sarah Gailey (June 4th) | GR

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Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magic. She is perfectly happy with her life—she has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha. But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.


When the Light Went Out – Bridget Morissey (June 4th) | GR

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It’s been five years since Marley Bricket died by accidental gunshot. On the night of the annual memorial, Olivia Stanton, the only witness to Marley’s death, gets an unexpected visitor in the form of Nick Cline. He’s the boy who pulled the trigger on what he didn’t know was a loaded gun. Since then, nothing in the quiet desert town of Cadence, California has ever been the same.

Nick’s surprise reappearance puts all the Kids of Albany Lane in one place for the first time since Marley died. The once-inseparable group of neighborhood friends, formerly led by Marley herself, has disbanded. But when Olivia discovers a scavenger hunt orchestrated by Marley before she died, the group must come together again to complete it, reopening old wounds and unearthing new questions about what really happened. Most importantly, did Marley know the gun was loaded?


Ghosts of the Shadow Market – Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson , Sarah Rees Brennan, Robin Wasserman , Kelly Link (June 4th) | GR

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The Shadow Market is a meeting point for faeries, werewolves, warlocks and vampires. Downworlders buy and sell magical objects, make dark bargains, and whisper secrets. Through two centuries, Brother Zachariah has been a frequent visitor. As a Silent Brother, he is sworn keeper of Nephilim laws and lore. But once he was a Shadowhunter called Jem Carstairs, and his love, then and always, is the warlock Tessa Gray.

Follow Brother Zachariah and see, against the backdrop of the Shadow Market’s dark dealings and festive celebrations, Anna Lightwood’s first romance, Matthew Fairchild’s great sin and Tessa Gray plunged into a world war. Valentine Morgenstern buys a soul at the Market and a young Jace Wayland’s soul finds safe harbor. In the Market is hidden a lost heir and a beloved ghost, and no one can save you once you have traded away your heart. Not even Brother Zachariah…


The Rest of the Story – Sarah Dessen (June 4th) | GR

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Emma doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories she told her about North Lake, where she grew up. Now it’s just Emma and her dad, until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family who she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.

When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little and who holds the key to her family’s history. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake and for Emma, it’s like a whole new world is opening up to her.

But when it’s time to go home, which side of her will win out?


Like a Love Story – Abdi Nazemian (June 4) | GR

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It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.

Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS.

Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance…until she falls for Reza and they start dating.

Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out and proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.

As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart–and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.


Recursion – Blake Crouch (June 11th) | GR

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NYC cop Barry Sutton has been tasked with looking into the devestating new phenomenon dubbed False Memory Syndrome – a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived. Neuroscientist Helena Smith has devoted her life to creating a technology that will not only preserve memories but allow people to relive them.

As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face-to-face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it. But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them? 


The Grief Keeper – Alexandra Villasante (June 11th) | GR

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Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American. What she never pictured was fleeing her home in El Salvador under threat of death and stealing across the US border as “an illegal”. After her brother is murdered, her mother goes into hiding, and her younger sister, Gabi’s, life is placed in jeopardy, she’s left with no choice but to attempt to cross the border. But when Marisol and Gabi are caught, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the US – become a grief keeper. Tasked with taking the grief of another into your body, it’s a risky and experimental study, but Marisol will do whatever she can to protect her sister. She just never expected to fall in love.


Dev1at3 (Lifel1k3 2#)- Jay Kristoff (June 25th) | GR

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Lemon Fresh has seen better days. Separated from Ezekiel and Cricket, she’s being hunted by corporate operatives set on using her ability to manipulate electricity as a weapon. She soon finds herself falling in with a band of fellow deviates led by a figure known as the Major who may have info about her past.

Meanwhile, Cricket falls into the possession of the puritanical Brotherhood, a religious cult set for a collision with the Major and his band. Searching for Lemon, Ezekiel finds a strange ally in an old enemy, and uncovers a plot that may see him reunited with Ana.

And inside Babel, a remade Eve hatches a plan to bring an end to the world.


Call it What You Want – Brigid Kemmerer (June 25th) | GR

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When Rob’s dad is caught embezzling funds from the town, Rob goes from popular to outcast. Worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.

Everyone sees Maegan as an overachiever, but she has secrets of her own. When her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.

When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a project, they’re reluctant to let anyone past their walls. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan t fix his father’s mistakes, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship…

And there’s a snapshot of the month ahead. What new releases are you planning on snapping up this month?

Upcoming Releases to Get Excited About | Part 2

2018 is coming closer and closer to the end and here I am with another three 2019 releases to get excited about and or possibly bemoan the wait period for depending on whether you’re a glass half full or empty kinda person.

Image result for a curse so dark and lonelyA Curse so Dark and Lonely – Brigid Kemmerer | 29th Jan

Fall in love, break the curse. 

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom. 

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.


Anyone who knows me well knows that I love Beauty and the Beast. LOVE. While there have been quite a lot of retellings of it over the years (some better than others), based on the blurb, this one sounds great. Also, a strong, modern heroine with a disability? Um, yes! I’ve seen a few really positive early reviews so I’m hoping this will end up being a winner. However, my one nagging feeling is that someone mentioned that if you liked A Court of Thorns and Roses, you’d enjoy this one. Even though I ended up really loving that series, the first book was a bit average for me. Guess we’ll see.

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36307634King of Scars – Leigh Bardugo | 29th Jan

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal. 


Another big name release that I couldn’t resist including. At the beginning of this month I re-read Shadow and Bone and then actually made it the rest of the way through The Grisha trilogy. Now, like everyone else, I’m so excited for this one. Pretty much everybody who reads the Grisha books falls in love with Nikolai and although he was different to what I expected (in a good way!), I did too. It’ll be great to see him take centre stage this time and find out how he handles Ravka after everything that happened with Alina and The Darkling. He’s also got some trauma of his own to process, too, so that’ll be interesting. Even better, both Zoya and, love of my life, the waffle queen herself, Nina Zenik, will be in this series. I’m sure there’ll be a love interest there somewhere. Unsure how I feel about it though. Regardless, hurry up January!

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Image result for even if i fallEven if I Fall – Abigail Johnson | 8th Jan

A year ago, Brooke Covington lost everything when her beloved older brother, Jason, confessed to the murder of his best friend, Calvin. Brooke and her family became social pariahs, broken and unable to console one another. Brooke’s only solace remains the ice-skating rink, where she works but no longer lets herself dream about a future skating professionally.

When Brooke encounters Calvin’s younger brother, Heath, on the side of the road and offers him a ride, everything changes. She needs someone to talk to…and so does Heath. No one else understands what it’s like. Her brother, alive but gone; his brother, dead but everywhere. Soon, they’re meeting in secret, despite knowing that both families would be horrified if they found out. In the place of his anger and her guilt, something frighteningly tender begins to develop, drawing them ever closer together.

But when a new secret comes out about the murder, Brooke has to choose whose pain she’s willing to live with—her family’s or Heath’s. Because she can’t heal one without hurting the other.


So, I’m pretty sure this book is going to cause some intense heart break. It’s got deep, emotional YA contemporary written all over it but at the same time there’s a bit of a mystery element which I’m really here for (please don’t be disappointing!!). I really like this idea of showcasing human connection and compassion with regards to such a super complicated relationship. I mean, if someone’s sibiling had murdered your brother, the last thing you’d want is to hang around with them as a constant reminder of that fact. At the same time though, it’s not their fault. Ah! This is going to be so messy.

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Are any of these on your 2019 TBR? Or if you’ve been lucky enough to get your hands on an ARC, how was it?