Friday, January 17, 2014

Review: And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

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I received this book for free from Random House Children's Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: And We Stay by Jenny HubbardAnd We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on January 28th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Source: Random House Children's Books
Buy on Amazon

When high school senior Paul Wagoner walks into his school library with a stolen gun, he threatens his girlfriend Emily Beam, then takes his own life. In the wake of the tragedy, an angry and guilt-ridden Emily is shipped off to boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she encounters a ghostly presence who shares her name. The spirit of Emily Dickinson and two quirky girls offer helping hands, but it is up to Emily to heal her own damaged self.

This inventive story, told in verse and in prose, paints the aftermath of tragedy as a landscape where there is good behind the bad, hope inside the despair, and springtime under the snow.

And We Stay is a book that will resonate with some, and left others feeling detached. It’s a very poetic writing style which on one hand gives us a beautifully written novel, but on the other hand it makes it hard to embed yourself into the main character’s thoughts and emotions.

The main reason for this detachment is due to the fact that it’s written in 3rd person present. This tense always makes it hard for me to feel anything but indifference towards a story and its characters. It does make for a pretty writing style – and it is – but Emily’s emotional turmoil is kept out of reach as a result. It felt like she was telling someone else’s story, not reliving her own. This writing is also more poetic than I’m used to and I can’t say I was a big fan of it. This is clearly personal preference, though, and I’m sure it will reach some fans who will fall in love with it. Unfortunately for me, it left me feeling bored for the most part.

The blurb is what attracted me to this novel: Mentions of boyfriend suicide and boarding school had me immediately intrigued. I love boarding school settings (probably because it’s so foreign to me), and gritty stories with damaged characters are right up my alley. What the book ended up being was really not what I was expecting. It was more about Emily Dickinson’s life story, and how our protagonist was inspired by her. Aside from the 3rd person present tense, I’m not a big fan of poetry in general. I guess I should have known this wasn’t for me seeing as it mentions Emily Dickinson and verse/prose writing, but having found out recently I’m actually a fan of verse novels it didn’t raise a red flag as it should have. On that note, I have to disagree that this is a story “told in verse” as the blurb made me believe; it includes a poem between each chapter and a few mini poems scattered throughout, but they only echo the story that was being told. I even skipped most of them and still got the full picture. I’m new to verse novels, but that is not how I would describe one so I found it a bit misleading. I bring this up because it was one aspect that pushed me to read it; having finished Ellen Hopkin’s Glass recently had me in the mood to try out more verse books.

I do think people who are Emily Dickinson fanatics should check it out. It’s as much Dickinson’s story as it is Emily Beam’s. I believe my failed relationship with this novel is more a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”.


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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17 Responses to “Review: And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard”

  1. Melanie (YA Midnight Reads)

    Hmm, 3rd person verse narration…I’m a little hesitant. Though curious as well–because I haven’t read much verse novels (even this isn’t entirely one–awful misleading!) and like you said the idea seems interesting. I hope your next review is better!

    Fantastic review, Giselle! <33

  2. Maya

    This sounds great from the synopsis so what a shame that it didn’t turn out well for you. I don’t really have anything against third person present tense but I don’t like it when a novel has a sense of detachment from the protagonist. Thanks for the review, Giselle!

  3. Kelsey

    I pretty much only requested this one because I’m a fan of Emily Dickinson. However? I don’t like feeling detached. I enjoyed the prettiness in the writing style and all, but I really didn’t feel like it worked for Emily. I was just altogether disappointed with this one. Great review, though! You really summed it up well.

  4. Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain

    I agree third person present is a weird way to tell a story and certainly unusual. From the few books I’ve read with it, it’s kind of detached and hard to connect to like you said. I still haven’t read a verse book but I probably won’t be starting with this one even though it’s minimal. It seems like it’s misleading to verse fans because it isn’t super significant to the overall book. Fantastic review, Giselle! <33

  5. Molli

    So tough when you can’t connect. I have to say, I ADORE 3rd person present tense. It’s my favorite tense to write in, though usually I steer clear of it because I know a lot of people don’t enjoy reading it. (Which fascinates me, because I can’t stand writing in first person, but feel connected to third present.)

    I didn’t expect that much of a focus on Emily Dickinson though. Hmm. It’s a toss-up whether I’d like this one more than you did, Giselle. You really did a great job letting us know what to expect, so thanks for that, girly!

  6. Alexia @ Adventures in Reading

    When I found out that this one was written in verse/prose, I immediately deleted it from my possible requests. I don’t like books in verse so I knew that I wouldn’t enjoy this one. Glad I suck with my gut on this one. Bummed that you didn’t enjoy this one though.

  7. Melliane

    I didn’t know this one but I saw the cover even if not the synopsis before. I confess I was curious to learn more because I like it but now I think I’ll pass, well at least it’s a book less to read. thanks to you for the review!

  8. Jesse @ Pretty in Fiction

    I think I want to try this book out. I’m not a huge fan of verse novels (I’ve only read one and it wasn’t for me) so I’m glad this isn’t a novel told in verse as the synopsis leads you to believe. I have a harder time connecting to characters when it’s third person present tense too, but I’m hoping that won’t be the case here. I don’t know. I want to like this book, but something tells me I probably won’t be wowed by it.

  9. Lauren

    Ooh I am not a big fan of 3rd person present. It really makes it hard to connect to the characters. I’m definitely curious about the poetry and have always loved Emily Dickenson, so maybe I”ll still give it a try. Perhaps going in with lowered expectations will help me enjoy it more. Thanks for your honest review!

  10. Bonnie @ For the Love of Words

    I typically dislike books written in 3rd person present too. It always makes for an awkward read for me at least. Not being an Emily Dickinson fanatic I think I’ll be skipping this one. Sorry this didn’t work out for you but great review!

  11. Wendy Darling

    I almost stopped reading at “third person present tense,” hah. And then when I kept reading, I kept discovering more things that made me go no no no, this book is not for me! I am so not a poetry person in most cases, and I have to admit, the whole suicide combined with Emily Dickinson thing sounds too over the top for my taste, too.

    Sorry you were disappointed…but thanks for the review, hah. Saves me some trouble. 😉

  12. Nova Lee @ Out of Time

    I’m not sure about this one. I think there was one called To Be Perfectly Honest that was written in like verse too. I don’t know how I feel about that because I’d rather listen to an audiobook when it comes to beautiful proses. That’s just me.

    It seems a little strange for me, so if I do pick it up, I have no idea if I’ll like it.

    Great review!