Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Book Review: And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

And We StayAnd We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book has really confused me when it comes to what rating to give it. Some elements of the book were great, some weren't so great.

And We Stay is the story of high school junior Emily Beam. Emily is just starting her first semester at an all girl's boarding school after witnessing her boyfriend's suicide at her old school. Emily's parents decide it would be better if she has a fresh start at a new school in a new town. The school is located in Amherst, MA., which is American poet's Emily Dickinson's hometown.

This is where I start to get confused about the book's rating. Emily Beam draws inspiration from Dickinson's poetry, and the author makes several parallels in the story between the two Emilys. Emily Beam compares herself to Dickinson. Emily Beam's teachers compare her to Dickinson as well. She sneaks away from the school to visit Dickinson's home. She considers entering a poetry contest through the Emily Dickinson International Society. Most of the time, these comparisons and parallels felt very coerced and put me off as a reader.

The story also flips back and forth between present-day at the boarding school and the past, when Emily remembers the beginning, middle, and end of her relationship with Paul. Some times it was difficult to follow along.

There are several sub-plots in the book, such as Emily's relationship with Paul and an unexpected pregnancy. There's also the issue of what happened to Hannah, the girl who was kicked out of the boarding school, thus making room for Emily mid-way through the school year. There's some sort of back story between Hannah, K.T. (Emily's roommate), and a couple of other girls at the school. Unfortunately this doesn't get resolved by the end of the book.

What I did enjoy about the book was stories about friendship and healing. I did get a little emotional at times, for example, when Emily gets a letter from Ms. Albright, her former teacher from her hometown. While I did find myself rooting for Emily to heal and be able to move on with her life, these instances were overwhelmed by the overall confusion about where the story was going.

Honestly, I can't say whether I would recommend this book for a library. There are some topics here that part of a teenager's daily life -- dating, sex, friendship, self-doubt, etc. But on the other hand, there are so many things in the book that kind of alienate the reader.

The best I can do for And We Stay is give it a rating of "It was OK."

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