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.And 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
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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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