Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer: Review & Interview

Letters to the LostTitle: Letters to the Lost
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Juliet Young has always written 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 of them knows that they're not actually strangers. When real life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart. This emotional, compulsively-readable romance will sweep everyone off their feet.
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This book has just been announced as part of the Zoella Book Club and I couldn't be happier for Brigid Kemmerer. This book is incredible and I can't wait for so many new people to read the book because of this! Grab yourself a copy asap, and now you can even grab the Zoella Book Club WHSmith exclusive cover.

Before Letters to the Lost, I'd actually once tried to read another book by Brigid Kemerer, Storm, the first book in her Elemental series. I ended up not finishing the book, I couldn't get in to the story and thought that maybe her writing just wasn't for me. So I must admit that I was a little hesitant to pick Letters to the Lost up, but I just had to read it as it seemed like exactly my kind of contemporary. I was so very right. I am so glad I took a chance on it, I ended up absolutely loving this bstory and now I am left wanting more from this author. I read this book in just a few hours, I honestly just couldn't put it down and step away from the story or these characters. Within just a few pages Kemmerer managed to get me ridiculously invested in her characters and their story. Ahhhhhh, I just really loved this book and now I just kind of want to gush about it.

Since Juliet lost her mother in a car accident, she has been leaving letters at her grave as a way to feel close to her. Her mother was a war photographer, constantly travelling to war torn countries to capture the true horror, so letters have always been how Juliet and her mother kept in touch whilst she was away. Juliet never expects anyone to read the letters she leaves at her mother's grave, she definitely doesn't expect anyone to reply. But Declan does. He is currently doing community service at the graveyard when he finds one of her letters. He understands her feelings, he is still dealing with the death of his sister and the guilt he feels from that. He write back, which begins a communication between the two of them. They seem to understand each others pain, guilt and grief, but they don't realise that they know each other in real life and they haven't exactly had the best interactions with one another. Cue all the good stuff!

Image result for now kiss gifI'm not even sure where to begin, there are so many things that I loved about this book. It covered so many issues so well, and gave me so many feelings in the process. I think first I should say that I loved the characters, they just felt so real. Their grief and pain was just so easy for me to understand and relate to, as well as their guilt, even for the things they really shouldn't blame themselves for. I loved watching Juliet and Declan connect through their letters, whilst also getting to know one another in real life without even realising it. It showed so well how quickly we can judge people and make assumptions about them, without knowing their full story. It also perfectly showed how anonymity can make us far more comfortable and willing to show who we really are.

This book dealt with a lot of tough subjects, not just loss and grief; Brigid Kemmerer dealt with these all so well. It never felt like too much, or that she went too over the top with it like I have seen in other books. These tough issues were never used for drama, they were so important to the story and these characters, who they were and the decisions they made.

Another thing I loved about the book was all the different relationships portrayed here. You had those with good relationship with their parents, those without. Not to mention the strong friendships here, ones that I really enjoyed. I especially enjoyed Declan's relationship with his best friend Rev, the level of understanding those two have of each other is just brilliant. They know each others past and the struggles it caused them, they were supportive, whilst also being capable of calling the other out on their bullshit when they needed it. I felt the family relationships were also very realistic, especially Declan's struggles with his step father. I felt like their lack of communication was so true to real life. If you don't open up and tell someone your feelings and motivations, they'll judge you only on what they can see and that won't always be who you are. I really enjoyed how Kemmerer dealt with that relationship over the course of this novel.

Image result for kiss already gifKemmerer did such a wonderful job building up the relationship between Declan and Juliet. This is a fantastic contemporary, where the romance isn't overpowering the story, and I actually preferred it that way. This was definitely a slow build and slow burn romance, with two characters truly opening up and getting to know each other; my favourite kind of romance. That isn't to say that I didn't totally want to see these two end up together, I did. I shipped these two so very hard!

I absolutely loved this book and can't really find any faults with it. My one and only complain might be that I wanted one more chapter or so, which is what I seem to say about every single contemporary I ever read. That's not because the ending didn't wrap up the story enough or didn't give me closure, it was just that I didn't feel ready to say goodbye to these characters, which is a good sign that I loved the book.

5/5 Butterflies

Why do you write?

I’ve always loved telling stories. I started writing stories in middle school because I couldn’t find enough to read to keep me busy.

Do you write letters? How important do you think it is to keep up letter writing rather than just always texting/emailing etc – or do you think we have to move with the times? 

I rarely hand-write physical letters (though I’m going to write two physical letters to two people I found incredibly inspiring as I was writing Letters to the Lost). That said, I am constantly emailing and texting. I love being able to take the time to sit down and think through what I say, and especially with email, being able to deliver all of it at once, instead of as part of a conversation. I think that goes hand-in-hand with writing books: I’m just a storyteller at heart.

In the age of digital dating and online friendships, how much do you think it is possible to get to know a person without actually meeting them? 

My absolute closest friend is a woman I met online through a writers’ message board. We’re as close as sisters now, and we’ve only physically seen each other twice. I met my husband over the phone, and we developed a friendship well before we ever met in person. And those are my two closest relationships! I think it’s very possible to develop a close relationship with someone online. I’ve never met many of my writer friends. Being able to connect with people all over the world is one of the best parts of the digital age.

Which novelists do you admire? 

Oh my goodness, SO MANY! Huntley Fitzpatrick, Sabaa Tahir, Charlaine Harris, Sophie Kinsella, Bill Konigsberg, Jane Green…I could go on and on!

Describe your route to being published: 

I feel like I’ve been writing forever, but I started to really take it seriously in my late twenties. I began researching what it would take to get published—and learned it takes a lot of work! My first real novel was rejected everywhere, so I wrote another one. That novel landed an agent—but didn’t sell to any publishers. My third novel, Storm, sold at auction, and it’s the first novel in a series about four brothers who control the elements of earth, air, fire, and water.

What songs would be on a Letters to the Lost playlist? 

I always say that Shots by Imagine Dragons is the book’s theme song. The regular version is great, but there’s a slower, acoustic version that just absolutely nails it. The song is about someone who wants to do things right, but they feel as though everything they do ends up being terribly wrong.

What is the first book that made you cry? 

I can’t remember. The last book that made me cry was The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick.

What drove you to make Juliet’s mother a war photographer? 

I wanted her mother to have a job that would require a lot of travel, but also be something unusual and admirable. I started researching photojournalism and it just clicked immediately.

What’s your favourite photo you’ve ever taken? Or one that you’ve seen? 

The most powerful photo I’ve ever seen is the one that inspired the opening chapter of Letters to the Lost. It’s called “Iraqi Girl at Checkpoint,” taken by Chris Hondros, and it’s terrible and devastating.

Here’s a link: http://100photos.time.com/photos/chris-hondros-iraqi-girl-at-checkpoint How a Photo of an Iraqi Girl at a Checkpoint Changed the ... 100photos.time.com

The girl's parents were shot dead by U.S. soldiers who thought the family's car held insurgents or suicide bombers But seriously, it’s terrible and heartbreaking. Not for the faint of heart. The instant I saw it, I started crying, and the mother in me wanted to find her and hold her.

What was the hardest part of writing the book? 

Looking at war photographs. Some of them (like the one above) are terribly difficult to look at. My husband and I went to the Newseum in Washington D.C. so I could do some research for Letters to the Lost, and seeing so many photographs all at once was an incredibly emotional experience.

Can you tease any future projects? 

Yes! Rev Fletcher, a side character in Letters to the Lost and already a reader favorite, is getting his own book. More Than We Can Tell will be released in March 2018. I’m also just finishing A Curse So Dark and Lonely, a fantasy/contemporary crossover, which should be available sometime in 2019.