Note: This review contains spoilers from Letters to the Lost and More than we can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer
Guys, I may have found the perfect books. Okay, not like 100% perfect but pretty close! A couple of months ago I wrote a post about what makes me pick up a book where I pointed out the things I like in books. Sometimes, reading Letters to the Lost and More Than We Can Tell it felt like Brigid Kemmerer had taken that list and worked through it, ticking everything off as she went. So, I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about these books and why I love them so much!
One of the things I pointed out in my previous post was that I adore books where friendship is important and it so was in both of these novels. I have honestly fallen in absolute love with Rev and Declan, they have such a beautiful friendship and they’re not afraid to admit how much they care about each other to themselves or other people. I love how casually Declan, a self-confessed tough kid, points out that he loves Rev, and the moment where they are supporting each other and hold hands. This kind of affection is often reserved for only female friends and it is so great to see it normalised between male friends in these novels. Another thing I loved about the platonic relationships in these novels was how they were never presented as inferior to the romantic relationships. So often in YA contemporary that have romances (I’m using this clunky phrase because although both of these books have romance in them, I wouldn’t call either of them romances, they deal with too much other, important stuff for that!), friendship is forgotten or cast aside for the sake of a romantic relationship, and the most annoying thing is that often it’s not even made into a thing, it’s just taken as a given that once you have a romantic relationship, your friendships fade into the background. Here, though, as soon as the novels seemed to be slipping into this hole, the protagonist would point out that they were being a bad friends and would make amends like when Emma points out that she is being a selfish friend and Declan feeling guilty for not considering Rev’s feelings before they proceed to work through their issues together. It was genuinely so amazing and refreshing to see and made me fall absolutely in love with these books and their characters.
Another thing I love in books, and the absence of which has become a real pet peeve of mine, is parents who actually parent. What I love about these books is that the parents are actually present and and important part of the stories in their own right. There are some pretty amazing parents like Geoff and Kristin (and on the topic of Geoff and Kristin I love how early in the novel Rev told them about the correspondence from his father, and some of the scenes between Geoff and Rev, especially, were heartbreaking) but there were also extremely flawed parents. And this was important! It wasn’t just incompetent parents for no reason, it was parents struggling and going through their own problems and how these things affected the relationship between them and their kids. I actually can’t get over how amazing these relationships and the way they are developed are. Emma coming to the realisation that she had been idolising her dad and demonising her mum unfairly, Juliette and her dad getting closer through their grief and the revelation that her mum had been cheating and Declan and Alan. Oh my, Declan and Alan. They actually talked, they communicated and admitted their flaws and it was amazing! They didn’t become best friends (because that would have been unrealistic) but they actually talked through their differences. Honestly, I can’t tell you how long I have waited for books like these.
On the subject of developed adults, I also really liked the teachers, especially in Letters to the Lost. As someone who wants to go into teaching, I often get annoyed at YA when they present teachers as completely oblivious and incompetent. Here, though, we had teachers who actually cared about their students. I’m not going to lie, I think I was also swayed by the fact that Miss Hillard, Declan’s English teacher was so amazing (English is the subject I want to teach) and that one of the poems highlighted in the novel was ‘Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night’ by Dylan Thomas which is literally one of my favourite poems. And the actually competent adulting didn’t stop with parents and teachers either. For example, Menendez was a great character in Letters To the Lost and his and Declan’s relationship was such a great one to see developing, especially when Menendez could have been such a cliche ‘villain’ character getting in the way of the protagonist. Oh yeah and did I mention that when parents slipped into being not great they were actually called out on it, like Declan’s Mum being called out for making Declan cover for his Dad? Sorry, I’ll stop now, but I could actually talk about this for days!
Both of these novels were also multiple POV, which if you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know is an absolute win for me. I loved all four of the characters who narrated across the two novels, but I also loved how the character development didn’t stop with the narrators. In Letters to the Lost we still got a lot of Rev’s story and in More Than We Can Tell we still heard a lot about Declan and Mathew (I also loved the developing relationship between Rev and Mathew). The best thing I can say about these characters is that once I closed Letters to the Lost (because I actually read Letters to the Lost after More than We Can Tell) I was really sad that I was saying goodbye to these characters and I’m kind of still missing them now. I want to know more, about all of them.
So there we have it, my gushy review of Letters to the Lost and More Than We Can Tell but what can I say? These literally feel like the YA contemporaries I have been waiting for. Have you read both/either of these books and if so what did you think?
As always, happy reading!