Today’s book review is for And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard.
author: Jenny Hubbard
release date: January 28, 2014
format: e-ARC, hardcover
pages: 240 pages
publisher: Delacorte Press
Read: Dec. 20-21, 2013
Book Type: YA, Contemporary, Poetry
“In And We Stay, Jenny Hubbard treats tragedy and new beginnings with a skilled, delicate hand. Her otherworldly verse and prose form a flowing monument to all the great storytellers of the past.” —John Corey Whaley, author of the Michael L. Printz and William C. Morris award winner, Where Things Come Back
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.(From Goodreads.com)
“For as long as she can remember, characters in books have seemed more real to her than actual people.”
When I first saw this book on Random Buzzers, I had an instant connection with it. I knew it was going to be something I would envelope into my heart and love completely. And I wasn’t wrong.
Even so, this book was so much more than what I was expecting. I don’t mean to say that the synopsis doesn’t match the book, because it does, but it was just went so much deeper.
Jenny Hubbard has mastered a lot of things in this book — one being the art of going between past and present. There is one thing I hate when reading, and it is a choppy trail from past to present. A good author weaves the two together like a fine scarf, and it surrounds you, but doesn’t smother (ahh, like my poetic writing there? The book has inspired me, I think!) We are able to go easily from present to past, back to present — you know where you are and yet there are no flimsy gimmicks to get you there.
This book is truly about a girl dealing with devastating loss and consequences — she is 17 and has already faced more than most people will in all their lives. And yet, she has this old soul that transcends all the pain she has to work through.
In one part of the book, Emily tells her (then) boyfriend Paul about an Emily Dickinson poem. She explains that the first word is a seed that she cultivates and grows into a sacrament. I felt this explanation best uncovers what this book was about — a young girl taken the pieces of her life and growing them into who she will be from that point. Molding the scraps into something new.
There is no romance in this book. In fact, besides her past flashbacks with her dad and boyfriend, there are no boys in the book. Emily is dealing with Emily on her own terms. This was so refreshing and magical. More YA books could stand to entertain this vein of story telling.
If I had anything negative to say, it would be in terms of POV and character development. I did not feel the characters as deeply as I’d like to. In fact, I was more moved by the words, the lyrical prose and poetry that Emily wrote. I definitely did not connect with the characters outside of Emily herself — they seemed to fall flat at certain points. I think this was in large part to the POV. The book was written in third person, which bothered me far more than it should. It gave a disjointed distance from the characters. This could have been the authors intent, as it worked better as the story progressed. However, from an emotional appeal, it did not make me feel deep in my soul or cause the tears that another book similar to it might have.
Overall, the book is about layers — it unravels the layers that Emily must go through in order to heal. She isn’t able to swallow the past in one chunk, but must take it in pieces, slowly. And we as readers get to be along for the ride. And I for one, was happy to be in on it.