Wednesday, March 5, 2014

REVIEW: And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

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.

My Thoughts:

Darkness is patient. It lies in wait. It waited for Emily Dickinson, it waited for Paul Wagoner, and it will wait, too, for Emily Beam.

Before I started reading And We Stay, I knew that I wasn't in for a light, fluffy read. And after finishing, the two things that really stood out for my was the beauty of the writing and the emotion. Both were constantly at the forefront of my mind as a immersed myself in this wonderfully written, emotional story.

Emily Beam is sent away to a boarding school in Massachusetts, where nobody knows her, so that she can leave behind the tragedy and the aftermath of her boyfriend Paul Wagoner, who took his own life. It's meant as a fresh start, away from the pain and away from the reminders.

What had Emily Beam done to Paul's heart to make him do such a thing to hers?

I think it would be almost impossible to read this story and not feel grief for these characters. My heart pretty much broke for Paul. There was a constant ache in my chest at the level of his pain. He was a boy who felt things so deeply and events and decisions snowballed to the point where he was so trapped and made such a horrible decision which resulted in the end of his life. As much as I felt Paul's pain, I would have loved a greater understanding of what drove him to make the choices that he did. What was the lead up to the decisions that he made on the day that he took his own life? He was quite obviously a boy with issues, but I don't feel that I got a clear understanding of them. Emily is now dealing with the grief, guilt, pain and fallout of all the diverging events that have led her to this point in time. Sometimes I felt that Emily came across as a bit unfeeling, and then other times she felt so much. Ultimately, I don't feel like I ended up knowing her very well though. She was always so detached and closed off to people.

And We stay captures the events of the present and seamlessly weaves them in with the events of the past. The details of Paul and Emily's relationship and the events which resulted in Paul losing his life are given to us slowly throughout the book. And that part of things was done perfectly. I didn't feel that the story chopped and changed too much or lost any of it's pacing because of the way the story was revealed to us. And it was through these glimpses into the past that I felt the greatest connection to Emily and Paul. Before everything fell apart they were just two teens discovering their feelings for each other.

I loved the poetry throughout the book. I'm not really a huge poetry lover, but I felt that it really added to the story and portrayed Emily's emotions much better than the actual story did. But If poetry is not your thing at all, be warned, it's a pretty prominent part of the story. 

And We Stay portrayed so clearly that our actions and the decisions that we make can and will have life altering consequences. And not just consequences that affect us, but the people around us. 

4/5 Beautifully Written Stars

Received from the publisher via NetGalley for my honest review.

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