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Dead Letters
Dead Letterscblackburn10 (76)
Did anyone else have trouble starting the book?

I started it back during the month it came out, but never made it past the first few pages because it was terribly slow, similar to the first episode of 'Orange is the New Black.' Fans of the show said that viewers have to get through the first few episodes before the show is good and same with the posts on this page in regards to this book. But, I just can't read it y'all. I've tried twice since the first try and I can't do it. It gives off a 'Pretty Little Liars' vibe and I've never even watched that show, and I know how it ends. My guess is this book is similar in some way? Hope those of you who got through the first few pages enjoyed it!

Dead LettersElenaMijares (9)
SPOILERS

I thought the book was a little slow to start, but I was always eager to continue to learn how this was all going to end. I didn't realize until around QRS that the chapters were going from A to Z (26 chapters total). I do appreciate the fact that there were no "perfect" characters. I had a love/hate relationship with just about everyone. Each member of her family and Wyatt seemed to be mostly out for themselves and it sometimes made the book depressing for it felt too much like real life. I liked how the ending didn't feel completely rushed though it was frustrating to find out on THE LAST PAGE that she's pregnant. Poor Nico. This book reminds me of how I felt after I finished reading Startup. With that story, I wasn't crazy about it, but I did appreciate how much it made me think about characters' motives, choices, etc. Dead Letters gave me a similar feeling but with much more depth because it covered a few more serious issues. I would read another novel by this author.

PatriciaM (3)
It also took me till R to realize the start of each chapter was alphabetical. I thought "rappears" was one word, and wasn't sure if it was a typo (reappears) or what. I had to read it about 5 times to realize it was "R appears".
ElenaMijares (9)
Also, I don't know about the rest of you, but I could NEVER forgive my sister for screwing my boyfriend. It wouldn't be surprising to find a man betray me and give in to more primal desires (especially if the female is particularly "easy") but I can always get a new boyfriend/lover/partner. Family is supposed to be forever and always have your back.
Dead LettersNifahA (12)
I Almost Cried

I really liked this book. It was written very well although for about for 95% of the book I could have cared less what happened, I just wanted to FINISH. It was killing me to not know what the next clue was. Then the ending happened. And suddenly I was completely and totally invested in the story. I liked how it was almost impossible to predict the ending -or at least I couldn't. Every time I thought I knew what was about to happen I was completely wrong. I was very intrigued with the characters. I felt like this book had a beautiful message. Appreciate your family while there alive and don’t let small problems interfere with the relationship.

ElenaMijares (9)
That is a wonderful message though they all did have some severe issues as a family.
ShelbiMullins (17)
I too almost cried!!! The author really had me convinced I was on this journey with A and when I found out what really happened to Z I lost it!! Such a great read but so emotional at the end!!!
Dead LettersAshleySmith (11)
Very Gone Girl

I flew through this book! If I didn't have to work and maintain an adult life, I probably would have finished it in one day. It did reminded me very strongly of Gone Girl from the very beginning, but with twin sisters rather than a husband and wife. I really enjoyed it overall, but just like Gone Girl, the ending left me with an "I-don't-know-how-to-feel-about-this" feeling...and maybe a hint of disappointment. The good news is that it was unexpected (for me, anyway--I tried not to form too many guesses as I went so as to keep the element of surprise!) I'd kind of like to read it again just to analyze everything that happened now that I already know the ending. Side note: I grew up not terribly far from where this story was set! I've heard of/seen most of the extra little details that were mentioned, and I have been on Seneca lake (it really is beautiful) so that was pretty cool.

Mina (30)
I've always wanted to go to Watkins Glenn State Park, so I was loving the setting as well :) I think they portrayed small town NY very well. Everyone just assumes we're all from the city!
KimberlyBayer (3)
I have actually been up to Seneca Lake recently, and my family stayed in a house we rented in Hector. I didn't realize that was where this story took place when I picked it, but it was really neat to hear about all of the places I recognized. Now I even have a restaurant I want to try out next time we're out that way!
Mina (30)
I've always wanted to go to Watkins Glenn State Park, so I was loving the setting as well :) I think they portrayed small town NY very well. Everyone just assumes we're all from the city!
Dead LettersClmccor (53)
Still not sure how to feel...

I'm not sure how I feel about this book. I liked the idea of it. I liked that I wasn't sure about the ending. I liked the format with the texting, letters and emails. I enjoy a good scavenger's hunt.

I did not enjoy that there was no way for the reader to guess what the next letter could be. As a puzzler, that was disappointing.

The biggest thing I disliked was the characters did not stay true to themselves. I understand about character growth and what not.. but you can't tell your reader that character X is this, this and this and then have the same character do that, that and that. For example, Wyatt was the 'good' guy. I can't count how many times I was told what a good guy Wyatt is. He waited for her in high school, seem to wait for her while in Paris, helped out on the farm that he didn't own, etc. SPOILER!! But then he would have not only revenge sex with his 'love's' twin sister but a threesome as well? That does not fit goodie, golden boy I was told about.

Was this just me?

PatriciaM (3)
I also had issues with Ava. She's a tight-lace, straight-A student, the responsible twin, but she's been drinking heavily since 14? Calls herself an alcoholic, and has blackouts, mood swings? How is she the one who has her life together again?
ElenaMijares (9)
Did I miss something? When was he part of a threesome? I thought Zelda might have but I didn't catch any hint of Wyatt doing so.
PatriciaM (3)
Page 260. Ava is talking to Wyatt and says something along the lines of having both of them (A&Z), not having to choose between them for one night.
Laurie (2)
Totally agree, characters were really all over the place, clues were random. I liked the format with the texts and emails, the scavenger hunt, the use of the letters beginning each chapter. But I didn't think it was well written at all.
bethanyq (7)
Yes! 100% agree with you here. Definitely a strange read; about halfway through I began to expect that I'd be let down by the twist that felt inevitable. And then, ta da, I was. Wyatt was really flat. Also, who leaves all their stuff in Paris?!? For someone who supposedly is really into her graduate thesis topic, Ava seems super unworried about just dropping it all to do... what exactly?
FrankieJ (5)
Spot on about not being able to speculate on the next scavenger hunt item - I agree that made the book less engaging. Especially if you didn't like Zelda anyway, ahem. On the other hand, I think the author did a great job of conveying how there are aspects of your life that no one else will understand like a sister/brother. My sister and I mostly have inside jokes and obscure pop-culture references thankfully!
jana (10)
I think that it goes to just how manipulative and influential Zelda could be. Lets not forget afterall Wyatt was just "a guy" lol and if you get enough booze in a guy well....
pushmang (11)
Wyatt was my least favorite part of the book. I kept waiting for her either to get over him or for him to win me over but neither happened.
Dead LettersMina (30)
LOVED *SPOILERS*

Wow. I am totally blown away by this author's writing. I understand why some people would not enjoy this book, especially if they were expecting a Gone Girl-esque type of read. I, on the other hand, went in with almost no expectations. I saw that the book had mediocre reviews on Goodreads and thought I wouldn't enjoy it. Boy was I surprised! Maybe it is because I'm in my 20's myself, but I really felt for both Zelda and Ava. While I don't think I am particularly like either of them, I do know people who have dealt with similar situations and felt that their emotional reactions were completely realistic. I also liked that the author didn't fill the book with a bunch of loveable people. This made it much more realistic for me. The mystery was also really unique. Also, is it bad that I didn't realize each chapter started with the next letter of the alphabet until I got to X?!

One question though... Was Ava pregnant at the end?

NifahA (12)
Yea. she was pregnant and I didn't notice the letters either until Ava figured it out for herself in the book. I freaked out when I noticed that.
Katieladyreads (9)
WOW! I totally just had to go look back at my book, I didn't even realize the alphabet thing either. I also totally missed that Ava was pregnant (just re-read the last page)! I skimmed towards the end, I had a hard time with the story/sympathizing with the characters.
AmberDowd (2)
She was pregnant!??? omg as soon as I get home from work I am checking that out. With these types of books I totally start skim reading as I get excited toward the end. I really liked this book but SPOILER- was upset about the ending about Zelda. I am a twin, and it made me so so sad. I really WANTED a different ending..aka a happier one. Overall I really really enjoyed the book, it was right up my alley.
FrankieJ (5)
I found the self-destructive behavior both Ava and Zelda exhibited honest and relatable in light of their terrible home life. It's the woe-is-me, I'm-the-smartest-person-in-the-room mindset that turned me off. Also Ava's tendency to describe another character's weight to frame them as being pathetic or less-than. The descriptions of her former classmate and Wyatt's mother were especially unkind and seemed unnecessary. The author alluded to Ava being bulimic at one time, so perhaps that gives her this distorted perspective by which she views others. Edited to add that this comment is directed to the general thread :)
AmyBlake (2)
I think you're spot on about Ava relating weight because of her bulimia. I found her eating disorder to be kind of out of nowhere and very heavy handed in the middle - I think there was some consistency missing with it, but now that you've made that observation I appreciate the author making that association.
Kayla (110)
Frankie J, I agree with your sentiments. Flawed characters are realistic and relatable and heartbreaking. (My favorite book of all time is My Little Life - it was gut-wrenching and horrible, but beautifully written). Ava, however, was flawed, incredibly selfish, rude, and pretentious. I'm not sure why I detested her so much, but I really did not like her as the narrator. As I read the book, I felt conflicted feelings about Zelda. She certainly seemed to get the "shaft" in her family, but then there was the whole affair with Wyatt that made me dislike her. In general, no one in this family was good to the others and yet, everyone expected the others to forgive their sins.
ErinHoltz (5)
As soon as I saw the X chapter that's when I figured it out, too, so no worries on that! Yes, my guess was that Ava was pregnant considering Wyatt's gesture. I had the same reaction & experience as you did when reading this book. I think I, also, related to it more because I'm in my twenties. Some of the things Ava/Zelda had to deal with were really eye-roll-inducing. This story was realistic and a page-turner for me because I was so thirsty for the mystery to be solved. Although I was distraught to find out about Zelda at the end, it only made it all the more REAL. It's not the first book I'd jump to to re-read (All the Ugly and Wonderful Things will be one of my yearly reads) but if a friend was looking for an interesting mystery to read, I'd lend them my copy of Dead Letters :)
NicoleWallace (1)
Here's what I thought: https://itsmeladynikki.wordpress.com/2017/04/01/botm-review-dead-letters-caite-dolan-leach/
Dead LettersFrankieJ (5)
Suspending Disbelief

Spoilers ahead - Overall I did not enjoy this book. I think the author has talent, and had a number of nuances down pat - the circular train of thought of an alcoholic, the theme of constrained writing. However, I found it hard to suspend disbelief (as others have said) that every item in the scavenger hunt was found in order. I also found the arrest of Jason haphazard. We are to take Zelda's word that he "deserved it" and that was the last mention of it? I need more to support a miscarriage of justice. Would have loved to see less of Wyatt and more of the local cops turning up the heat on this family. Honestly, you don't come back from twincest group sex, not in two years. Not ever. And the ending with Wyatt - contrived? Or more charitably to the author, a sign that Ava could not break the chains of dysfunction and abuse? She will raise this unfortunate child as an emotionally withholding mother, with a partner whom she seems to have little-to-no respect for. History repeats itself. Dark, but in this case I can believe - she and her sister came off as pretentious, condescending sociopaths.

Becky (34)
I can't make up my mind about whether I liked or disliked this book. I gave it a thumb's up on my bookshelf, but that feels a little too nice (we need a hand hovering and making a so-so motion - haha). I felt like the story moved slowly and I whole hardheartedly agree about the scavenger hunt and things happening haphazardly. I also felt like the author was trying too hard with the character development. The characters didn't feel real to me and I didn't connect with most of them, especially Wyatt, who was written as the "good guy". Um - good guys shouldn't cheat on the woman they love or have threesomes with her and her sister! I found one part of the ending predictable (Zelda), but did not have a clue about Ava and Zelda's mother's diagnosis which was a twist that I actually loved. I also enjoyed how the author described Ava and Zelda's relationship and how Ava desperately missed Zelda even though she was so angry with her (and rightfully so)!
Kristenicole90 (1)
I'm glad to see someone else felt the same way about this book! I was left feeling like I'd wasted my time almost when I finished the story. I think the quality of the writing was fine, but honestly the characters were the deal breaker for me. I never could connect with any of the characters, let alone bring myself to like any of them. At first I thought that Ava could be the exception, that she was merely a victim of her dysfunctional family. It didn't take long to realize she was as dysfunctional as the rest of them though, maybe even more so. Then there was the bizarre love triangle and the twincest as you called - unbelievable to say the least!
Clmccor (53)
Totally agree about Jason, okay he is bad... but how bad? Why couldn't they pin him on something he actually did to get true justice? That would have made me happier. Also fact that innocent, upstanding, gentle Wyatt could cheat on his love of his life with her twin sister? Unbelievable. Then throw on that they had a threesome? Extra unbelievable. Then toss on that that Ava could get past that? Come on....
Katieladyreads (9)
*SPOILERS* I agree for the most part. The writing was well done but it dragged, I ended up skimming as I couldn't connect with Ava or Zelda. Her mother was a whole other layer of depressing that seemed unnecessarily dark (who could watch their own sister drown and not go in after them???)
Dead LettersMadeline (29)
Clever and Endearing Story with a Harsh Outer Layer

'Dead Letters' started out as a slow read... the writing came off as pretentious and the prose was overly-wordy and just cumbersome. I wanted to put it down a few times, but I kept pushing... and I'm so glad I did. After a few chapters, this really turns around and the story becomes quite engaging.

It took me a week to muscle through the first four chapters, but I finished the rest in a day. Now that I've finished, I wonder if this was the author's intention... to design the book much like Ava (our protagonist and narrator) who begins very hard and impenetrable (and frankly unlikeable), softens and becomes more vulnerable over time. Whether intentional or not, it came off quite clever.

The mystery isn't anything mind-bending or riveting (a la 'Behind her Eyes') but it's enough to keep a steady pace and hold your interest till the end.

The characters (our narrator included) are all deeply flawed, but each had at least a glimmer of redemption.

I found the ending satisfying... loose ends were all conveniently tied, albeit unrealistically. It's not necessarily the ending you want, but the story of the Antipova family isn't one that can really have a neat and happy ending.

Like others, I did think the situation with Nico could have been handled better (what did he do to deserve all that?? His only crime was wearing scarves...) I found the pregnancy a bit cliche, but it fit with the overall frame of the story -- from A to Z; from death to birth.

BrewWho8 (5)
I completely agree with you, it took me about a week also to struggle through this book, a little bit before halfway it got a lot better and started getting fast paced and I read it within 2 days. The ending wasn't exactly what I wanted but it satisfied me as well as in there were no cliff hangers.
cblackburn10 (76)
I only read the first part of your post, regarding the slowness of the first few chapters, because I just started the book and I wanted to see if anyone else thought the beginning is slow. I want to push past the slowness and keep reading, like I forced myself to do with Lucky You by Erika Carter, but I'm having trouble with this one, and by "trouble" I mean that I've fallen asleep twice while reading the first chapter, lol!
Dead LettersLaurenDowns (1)
Suspense?

I had a difficult time getting into this book. Most novels take me a couple days to finish, this one took me almost the entire month. After the first few chapters I found myself wishing I'd chosen another title, or completely skipped the month all together. I was irritated that it was painted to be a suspense/thriller novel. Instead of trying to piece the story together I was counting down how many chapters I had left until the end. Ava as a character was terribly. She admits she was afraid of comfort and connection, but we barely see her try and change that. She treats Wyatt horribly throughout their younger years and still he follows her like a puppy dog, and they end up together. (They do, right? That's what I got) She abandoned her mother and sister in a selfish, childish manner, and the author removes all bad aspects from her life in the end. While her twin is dead, so is her ill mother. Leaving her without the weight of having to care for or overdose her, and leaving her a small fortune fixing all debt. The author is obviously very alented, I would be interested to read more of her future work, but I do not think this first novel of hers was a best seller.

Katieladyreads (9)
Totally agree, I always go for the mystery/thriller. This one certainly was NOT a page-turner....and deeply disturbing in my opinion.
Dead LettersLisaMc (8)
Not my favorite

Just finished Dead Letters. Interesting plot with miserable characters. I found myself vacillating between wishing that I had skipped the book selection this month or chosen another book.

The author painted a very miserable childhood and dysfunctional family life which made me not enjoy the book as much. Ava's treatment of Nico annoyed me and I found the Ava/Zelda relationship weird.

The author's storytelling ability is pretty well crafted but I guess I was hoping for less drama and more suspense, especially after last month's choice, Behind Her Eyes.

AlexR (1)
I couldn't agree more! Ava and Zelda's relationship got weird. Ava stripped herself of her identity and only acted in contrast to whatever her sister did. And poor Nico didn't deserve anything that happened to him!
NoraQuinn (1)
I completely agree! I disliked all the characters (and not in a fun way). I didn't find any of them believable either. Who would do something so messed up to their sister?
Dead LettersJadeMann (9)
Pretty Good...

I want to begin by saying I was impressed, this was a fun read and I give the author credit for the creative story line. I honestly found it interesting and enjoyed trying to piece together the clues. There is no perfect book, yes the characters are flawed and that is on purpose - they are difficult and unlikable, and at times so frustrating; but I understand that this is for the story. If these characters had more likable qualities we for sure wouldn't have the same plot line.

This author is very talented, her writing is quite impressive, however very wordy at times and could have been condensed - but I feel as if this book was already condensed for length. The vocabulary at time was a bit pretentious, but I think this may tie in to the Ava character. All and all, I found it to be a pretty good book.

LisaMc (8)
Totally agree about the vocabulary...I found myself not knowing what some of the words meant and had to look them up.
Kayla (110)
I agree with your synopsis that the characters were intentionally flawed. For some reason, though, I had a very hard time empathizing with Ava. Usually, I enjoy books that are raw and gritty, as they portray life as it really is (not the fairytale version). However, with Ava and her family, I was over the alcoholism and self-destruction halfway into the book. I just felt like we were told 100 times that Ava (and everyone else in her family) had a drinking problem. At some point, it just quit adding to the perspective and started to get on my nerves. I do agree though - the plot was creative and the author was quite talented. The plot was certainly different than most books I have read of late.
Dead LettersDaphneFulayter (1)
Well done! (spoilers?)

This book starts off a bit stiff and disjointed, but as you learn the intricacies of Zelda & Ava’s lives/relationships, you come to realize that is exactly how Antipovas’ world is. They are complex, unusual, disjointed, eccentric – all the unique qualities that create the dysfunctional family. Ava’s character is oddly relateable, when you consider her struggle to be perfect, her fall into the flawed human she is, and her closed-off, don’t-touch-me demeanor. Nadine’s health struggles and the way Zelda & Ava handle them came across as incredibly real. It felt like something a reader could easily be facing in real life, which made the ending that much more heartbreaking. It was brilliant that the author left some topics as mere speculation instead of simply stating the past events (like what happened between Ava, Zelda, & Wyatt). By not explicitly stating what happened and alluding to it, it allowed the reader to really use their imagination regarding the details, and gave the reader a chance to connect the dots regarding what happened, how it affected Ava’s relationship with Zelda & Wyatt, and how it translated into Ava’s escape to France. The addition of the alphabetic theme throughout the novel is just the cherry on top of a well-written novel, and I look forward to reading any future works by this author.

Dead LettersTalk2megoose (17)
The Struggle is real

This post will contain spoilers. Is anyone else having a hard time getting through this? I was really looking forward to reading this book, but the fact that every single character in this story is dreadful and truly just awful... I just can't seem to get into or get behind it.

HOWEVER. This author is EXTREMELY talented. The writing style is wonderful, and I loved looking back through each chapter, and realizing that the first letter followed the alphabet. That is the main theme throughout the book, and I found her subtle hints to be clever.

That being said, I am 3 quarters of the way through Dead Letters, and I just want it to be over already. I usually read my books within 2 to 3 days... this has taken me 2 and a half weeks! I am left wishing there was at least one redeeming character, but I have the feeling my wish is going to be left in-granted. Such a shame.

Kayla (110)
You described exactly how I felt about this book, too. I just finished it yesterday and was literally counting down the pages until I could just be done (so I could move on to the next read). One reason I may have struggled with this book is because I found Ava to be intolerable. I understand dysfunctional families and the desire to flee from them, but she really took on a 'woe is me' mindset, and came across as selfish and cold. Toward the end I was not even engrossed in the mystery, I just wanted to get through it. I like the premise of the book (great storyline), but the narrator was so very dislikable.
Dead LettersKayla (110)
A is for Aggravating

In addition to being a BOTM selection, this book is also on several lists for '2017 Must Reads' - and I was super excited to read it. However, I had a really hard time getting into it. I liked the storyline and I appreciate suspense novels, but there was something very off-putting about the writing style. It felt very pretentious and I felt very separated from the narrator. To be frank, I absolutely detested Ava. I can appreciate that the author wanted to portray the Antipovas as a flawed, dysfunctional family, but I felt as though she was trying to beat me over the head with the fact that everyone in the family was an alcoholic. Ava tried to play the part of a martyr but she came across as selfish, juvenile, and egocentric. Halfway through this book, I contemplated quitting it. I eventually decided to see it through to the end, but I felt as though I was counting down the pages until it was over. I was less bothered by the holes in the story (as compared to some readers on this board), and probably would have liked the book better had any of the characters had even one redeeming quality. This is not a book I would recommend to another reader.

LisaMc (8)
Agreed. I regretted choosing this book after the first few chapters.
Cristineann (1)
this review is exactly on point with every thought I had when I closed this book!
Dead Letterspolkadotpolka (17)
I'm Not Sure...

I'm feeling very conflicted right now.... I liked reading this book. I followed along with the clues and tried to piece together what was going to happen and what everything meant. I was engaged in their story and their life, feeling for the characters as they navigated this situation, but....

There are so many unanswered questions, but not in the cliffhanger-suspense-whathappensnext type of way. More like story holes. What was this big giant secret that separated Ava and Zelda for so long? Why would Ava forgive Wyatt? Why did literally everyone just think 'Oh Zelda is making me do weird things and alluding to her death, no biggie'? Why was Ava's passport in the green dress and not where it was supposed to be in her bag? Ava just never called Nico, at all, not once? How did Zelda know exactly when and where for every single piece--- twins or not, nothing was discovered really out of order or anything, even when clues from different ends of the alphabet were sitting right there the whole time....

Also, I don't really like that Zelda ended up dead. I get that she was paranoid about her possible illness and felt helpless with her family & the vineyard, but I also kind of feel like it was a cop out ending. Even if her decision making was skewed (which was mentioned as symptom of the disease), she planned this for SO LONG and had so many people involved in some way or another, but NOBODY was suspicious of her suicide when the barn burned down? Plus, would she really leave Ava all alone? From the little tidbits from the book, I'm not sure if I really feel that Zelda would kill herself outright like that....I don't think she needed to resurface, but her death just fell flat, in a way, which is the opposite of all the lead up to the ending.

MonicaPandi-Ranieri (5)
I completely agree, I enjoyed the book, however I felt betrayed by the way the Author chose to end it. It had a great build-up and it kept me in suspense through most of the read. I was actually eager to get to the end to finally be able to understand why Zelda did what she did, why she chose to torment her twin up until the end. Ava describes herself as a victim, an innocent by-stander who blames everyone but herself for everything that goes wrong in her life, while she portrays Zelda as the evil sister (selfish, always competitive, hurtful as long as she reaches her goals and gets what she wants, etc.). Keeping all this in mind, the ending doesn't make any sense. Why would Zelda even care to make up for all that she did wrong if she was such a villain? I wish the Author would have chosen to let Zelda be the bad guy till the end and reveal her big evil plan. I needed something shocking, to top all the craziness that had happened until that point. Choosing to have Zelda actually be dead was a cop out and it made me feel like the Author got bored and no longer had the patience to deal with the characters. There were a lot of loose ends left untied, as well. Last but not least, I also missed the fact that Ava was pregnant. That poor child....
BrewWho8 (5)
I did enjoy the book (once I got through the dragged out parts) but I agree with you in that I felt her death just fell flat. I don't understand if she was dead that whole time how did she send emails and reply back to Ava (did I overlook this explanation in the book?) and also N was for Nasty and used in a sentence Ava and Wyatt did the Nasty - how did Zelda know they were going to have sex once Ava came home or was it just an unrealistic coincidence?
NikkiP (1)
I think I was more interested to find out - what's up with Nico? Weren't they supposed to be in a semi-serious relationship? He was such a minor character that just disappeared.
samishoward (27)
It was unrealistic that every clue was found at the right time. Zelda couldn't have planned it that perfectly, and not even a twin connection can explain it.
LaynaLamons (16)
The book alludes or gives small hints to the answers of some of these questions, you just have to catch them. I also think the Author was okay with leaving a few questions. That's exactly what Zelda did for Ava.
Dead Letterslauralou22 (9)
Bravo

spoilers For me this author had grabbed me with the letters and the dysfunctional family. The alphabet scavenger hunt was brilliant. This book had me curious and searching for answers. I really enjoyed reading and analyzing the mission Ava was on. What the author had me thinking was going to happen didn't happen. So much so that I really cried at the end. To watch Ava lose a part of herself and literally watch it unfold in the last chapters was so raw. Watching Nadines life slowly and most painfully being taken away. I liked how the author ended her life. This book hit home for me in so many ways. Watching someone you love suffer and not be able to do anything about it, is the hardest thing in the world.

AmyBlake (2)
I think the author did a great job of making the reader feel the same loss that Ava did. I truly hoped Zelda was alive the entire time, I wanted there to be some amazing Ocean's 11 style reuninion, but instead I found myself crying! I loved this book. I'm surprised to see so much hate on here, but I suspect that's because it was billed as more of a thriller, rather than just a bit of a mystery.
Chayli (2)
Thank you! This is how I felt as well. I truly enjoyed reading this book and going on the scavenger hunt with Ava. It was fun and I was hooked trying to figure out what happened to Zelda.
SonyaHaas (1)
This is how it read for me as well. I was unexpectedly hooked from the first chapter. I cried at the end. I sobbed. I felt so much pain for Ava. I know what it's like to lose someone really close to you in a sudden and unexpected way. I also live with chronic invisible illnesses and this really put my drive for the correct diagnosis into a different perspective. I fully under Zelda and Nadine's struggles in their lives.
Dead LettersNikkiJ (6)
Should I finish this?

Should I finish this book? This book is really not catching my attention. I feel like the dialog is so unnatural it throws me. Is it worth sticking it out? Thanks All.

OPENBOOK99 (1)
How far in are you? I had a hard time getting into it at first but then it got better and I couldn't put it down.
NikkiJ (6)
I got halfway. I think I may come back to it. Thank you!
polkadotpolka (17)
I agree that it got better as I went along, but I was not overly impressed with the ending so it's really 50/50....
NikkiJ (6)
Thank you for the reply!
Kayla (110)
For me personally, this book was painful to get through. I felt like the 'captivating' parts did not hold my interest. I did finish it, but I did not like it any more at the end than I did at the beginning. Bummer.
NikkiJ (6)
Thank you!
pushmang (11)
I liked the book a decent amount but I don't think you should finish it if you aren't liking it so far. I personally don't think the ending would be worth slogging through if you're not enjoying it.
NikkiJ (6)
Thank you!
Dead LettersCerebroCaro (49)
Literary Restraint *spoilers kinda?*

When/did everyone pick up on the fact that each chapter starts with a letter of the alphabet?? I embarrassingly didn't realize this until the chapter that started with 'S' I believe. Or even all of the alphabet references in the emails themselves took me a little while to catch on (I didn't realize until Ava did!)

I just think the amount of thought that went into writing this in such a specific manner and holding true to the overall 'literary restraint' theme was amazing.

NicholeOden (1)
This was one of my favorite elements! Super cool. I picked up on the alliteration in the emails pretty early on, but I didn't notice the chapter starts until Q! Once I noticed that I started to pick up on tons of alliteration throughout the book which was super fun.
polkadotpolka (17)
I made a mental note that Chapter 1 was A, but didn't notice that it continued until way later...
Katrina (1)
I noticed it at Q and thought that was an awesome layer-within-the-layers.
Katirhia (2)
I honestly did not figure it out until X, hah! And only because they chose the word "Extraordinary", so the X was huge and I was thinking, "wait, what??"
KaseyBaril (28)
Same here. I was so embarrassed that I didn't catch on sooner. lol!
LaynaLamons (16)
I didn't catch on to that one on my own either. That was very clever. The only part of the book that I wasn't able to guess.
samishoward (27)
I caught on embaressingly late too-not until X because they bolded the letter and it wasn't the first letter of the chapter. I also didn't notice the alphabet references in the emails till Ava did. I was impressed by this structure, and how it tied into OuLiPo and Poe, like Ava was studying in the book.
Dead Letterssamishoward (27)
Unanswered Questions

spoiler alert I was miffed at some of the unanswered questions we were left with at the end of this novel. Was the disaster that occurred "that spring night," a week after Ava discovered Wyatt and Zelda having sex, that they ended up having a threesome? And because of the fucked up implications of that, and the incestuousness, Ava had to leave for Paris? I guessed that that was what happened and Ava and Wyatt seem to allude to it, but Ava always says she doesn't want to discuss it. Since this is such a major secret and plot point that Dolan-Leach constantly alludes to, it seems like lazy writing and letting the reader down to not come right out and say what happened to cause this pivotal rift. Also, since I felt this book failed somewhat to live up to its thriller moniker (it was more of a family drama), to live up to the "suspense" this has been labelled with Dolan-Leach owed it to us to reveal this central mystery by the end. And it also would have more fully fleshed out the interpersonal drama aspects of the story to recount what really went down between Wyatt, Ava, and Zelda on the night that changed everything, and was apparently worse than the night Ava initially walked in on them.

Another unanswered question I had: why did Marlon and Wyatt dislike each other so much and feel so awkward being around each other? This weird dynamic is mentioned several times, as if it has significance, but unless I missed it, it's never revealed what happened to cause that strained relationship. Did Marlon know about the Ava-Zelda-Wyatt triangle or something about the aforementioned "spring night?"

Finally, the book ends with Wyatt kissing Ava's belly and saying they don't have to repeat her parents' mistakes. Is this implying that they're having a baby? Is this also one of the reasons Ava doesn't return to France and to Nico? Again, I wish Dolan-Leach had come out and said more things instead of vaguely hinting at them! I found that to be very dissatisfying as a reader!

All my unanswered questions have to do with Wyatt, which is not a coincidence. I found the whole Wyatt/romance subplot to be the weakest element of the novel (which I did overall enjoy). I didn't buy the rekindling of his and Ava's romance when she came home. I feel like he's portrayed as the nice guy we should feel sorry for, but I'm sorry: He. Cheated. On. Ava. With. Her. Twin. Sister. That's pretty despicable; he's not a poor puppy to be pitied. And I felt that Ava was supposed to have over-reacted in her rage over Wyatt and Zelda being together, and to have been somewhat in the wrong for fleeing to France. I'm sorry, but she was perfectly right to feel betrayed, and to protect herself by leaving that toxic environment. I don't think she overreacted. I didn't find it to be a happy, satisfying, or believable ending that she stayed in upstate New York to end up with the childhood sweetheart who cheated on her with her twin and never really understood her in all her complexity. Really? The heroine can't continue to pursue her dreams of her Ph.D. in a city she was happy in, free from the setting of her youth of addiction, misery, and fucked up family life? The ending felt twee to me, and not like a genuinely good resolution.

BrewWho8 (5)
One unanswered question I have that I think I over looked on my part and missed but how was Zelda sending all the emails and replying so quickly to Ava's if she died in the fire?? (HELP!) :)
Kayla (110)
My interpretation was also that they had a threesome, and ultimately, this drove Ava to leave for Paris. I thought that it was a weird secret - if I caught my sister having sex with my boyfriend, I would not choose to have a threesome with them both less than a week later. It seemed to me as though this part of the plot was included simply for the 'risque factor', and did not seem plausible to me. But, hey, maybe these things happen in real life! I have been to the Fingerlakes many times and I enjoyed thinking about New York state and all the wineries - Watkins Glenn is a charming place! However, that was probably the most redeeming part of this book for me. I really liked the plotline and didn't mind filling in some of the blanks on my own, but the characters were SO unlikeable. I think the way Ava treated Nico was cruel - in the end, she treated him no better than Zelda and Wyatt treated her. I truly felt most bad for Nadine. I understand she was not a warm and tender mother, but Zelda and Ava really mistreated her, especially as her health deteriorated. In the end, I'm not sure Ava really got what she deserved (P.S. Happily ever after isn't it!)
samishoward (27)
Yeah, if we saw what lead up to them having the threesome, I might have believed it more.
polkadotpolka (17)
Right!!! I have similar questions to you-- What was the big secret that the whole book is derived off of?! I kind of assumed that Wyatt and Marlon disliked each other for regular reasons; Wyatt is mad because Marlon abandoned his family and he knew that it hurt Ava and Zelda, and Marlon disliked Wyatt because Wyatt is the guy that Marlon could never be (protective, put together, etc) Ava is definitely pregnant at the end. With Wyatt's baby. Which is complete cop out of an ending. I agree with you that Ava had every right to leave and get on with her life. She probably should have called her sister a bit more, but going to grad school, Paris or not, is a pretty legit thing to do, especially if your twin and boyfriend betrayed you.
CerebroCaro (49)
I do think it was eluding to a threesome, I wondered about the awkwardness between Marlon and Wyatt as well and didn't pick up on the reason, and I totally think the ending was trying to say she's pregnant. I think the author purposefully left us with all of these unanswered questions to kind of mimic the fact that Ava herself was left with unanswered questions (just as Zelda said in the letter I didn't want to lay out the whole alphabet I want you to be able to make your own story - or something along those lines.) I like the idea of her ending up with Wyatt because I do think that them being together will help with giving her the stability and support she'll need to stay on track and not go down the same path as her mother. (However I whole-heartedly agree I personally would NOT have been able to forgive him for what he did.) And poor Nico :( he seemed like a nice fellow.
tbug93 (2)
I hadn't thought of that! Now that you say that, though, I must say I agree. This entire book, Ava was constantly filling in the "unknown" with her own stories, or "fantasies", so it makes sense that we are also meant to use our own imagination. I don't know that I would have thought of that myself...thank you for posting that! I think you just made me like this book even more! haha!
CerebroCaro (49)
:)
samishoward (27)
Yeah. I guess I would have liked it if Ava's stability came from herself and not from a man. Like if getting her Ph.D. gave her the strength to be sober and live a worthwhile life. And yeah, I liked Nico; I felt bad for him :(
pushmang (11)
Wyatt was my least favorite part of the book. I was so much on Ava's side and I never would have been able to forgive him. It doesn't make sense to me that she did.
AmandaBranch (3)
I was all disappointed in the unanswered questions. I am supposed to buy into something big and unforgivable happened which drives the whole plot yet it's never discussed. I can't get into the heroine's struggle as much as I would like because at one moment I am supposed to believe it was this HUGE deal, so big that she moved to Paris but then I am supposed to believe all is forgiven to the point where it appears at the end she marries and appears to have children with Wyatt. I think the story would have been better served to focus on the failing vineyard and dysfunctional family. There was more than enough there to drive the plot along and give Ava and Zelda motive for their actions. I've also guessed that what happened was the "Ultimate Taboo". I do not need the author to go into graphic detail but when the jacket suggests this is going to be a major suspense story and the entire novel up until the end keeps hinting at this very naughty thing happened that drove the sisters apart it is disappointing to never have it resolved. It also makes it very hard to believe the ending because if something happened that damaged Ava as much as she claims thru the ENTIRE book why on earth would she marry Wyatt and go back to living in the same town like it never happened?
samishoward (27)
Thank you! Exactly; we didn't need an explicit scene of the threesome but exactly what happened needed to be stated for the record. It could have been revealed in dialogue or through Ava's narration, but the truth needed to come out for it to be a satisfying conclusion.
AmandaBranch (3)
I was all disappointed in the unanswered questions. I am supposed to buy into something big and unforgivable happened which drives the whole plot yet it's never discussed. I can't get into the heroine's struggle as much as I would like because at one moment I am supposed to believe it was this HUGE deal, so big that she moved to Paris but then I am supposed to believe all is forgiven to the point where it appears at the end she marries and appears to have children with Wyatt. I think the story would have been better served to focus on the failing vineyard and dysfunctional family. There was more than enough there to drive the plot along and give Ava and Zelda motive for their actions. I've also guessed that what happened was the "Ultimate Taboo". I do not need the author to go into graphic detail but when the jacket suggests this is going to be a major suspense story and the entire novel up until the end keeps hinting at this very naughty thing happened that drove the sisters apart it is disappointing to never have it resolved. It also makes it very hard to believe the ending because if something happened that damaged Ava as much as she claims thru the ENTIRE book why on earth would she marry Wyatt and go back to living in the same town like it never happened?