We Are Okay by Nina LaCour – review

 

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blurb from goodreads:

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need… Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother. Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.”

 

This book is about a girl called Marin who lives with her grandfather in a house by the beach.

This book is about a girl called Marin who lives in a motel all alone and whispers herself to sleep every night through tears.

It is also a book about a girl called Marin who lives in a dorm room at NYU and isn’t not present in her own life so much as she is vacant from it.

It was definitely. Something. I don’t really know how else to describe it.

It’s lonely and sad and so, so melancholy, but it is also hopeful and whimsical and nostalgic.

The story is told in a sort of non-linear way that is only really rewarding if you get to the end. I did find myself slightly frustrated at how vague it all was, but as it is a short novel (only 234 pages long – I read it on a lengthy train journey) the frustration is short lived. The ending, I would say, is very satisfying and kind of perfect.

(yeah, I cried… shhh)

Marin as a first-person narrator was also interesting. I usually dislike first person narration but it worked here as it was, more than anything, Marin’s story being told. I don’t believe a third person or omniscient narrator would have had the same effect. I think it worked for me in this case as it just made everything Marin felt hit a little closer to home, and just a lot more real. Especially her descriptions of grief and loneliness, which I believe LaCour handled very well.

Even when I was 20 or so pages from the end, I did not expect to be so emotional about the ending. I hadn’t felt that attached to Marin throughout the novel, but I did find myself shedding a tear when things finally started looking up for her.

Strangely enough I find myself more able to relate to Marin more after finishing and reflecting on the novel. I cannot claim to have been through any of the trauma she has suffered through, but she is a very old, lonely soul who distances herself from the people who love her in order to recover/survive. I can, on a small scale, relate to this, and so it felt comforting (to a degree) to know that I wasn’t alone in this coping mechanism.

It was also really great to have some decent wlw/lesbian rep that wasn’t a coming out story, or contributing to the horrific ‘Bury Your Gays Trope”. Marin’s sexuality was never made out to be a big thing, which I liked. There was also no damaging homophobia scene which unfortunately crops up nearly always in lgbtqia+ ya. It simply was, which was refreshing to say the least. I also thought the description of Marin and Mabel’s relationship was incredibly beautiful.

On to the plot twist! I did NOT see it coming. I was expecting something to be *not quite how it seemed* simply because the story was not being told chronologically, which is always a dead give-away for a plot twist, or dramatic reveal, but I am not going to lie, guys. I am a total sucker for that kind of thing. I LOVE it. Especially when the reveal is nothing like you expected or anticipated… 😉

Unfortunately, I cannot give this a five star review, or even a four starred review, because even though it was a good book that was very well written and dealt with difficult subject matter, it did bore me sometimes. There were too many little details that were kind of… very irrelevant. It felt like the author was simply filling the page at times, which is understandable as not a lot happens, and the book only takes place over 3 days.

The other thing is, while being a very sad, yet lovely novel, it was a bit forgettable. It didn’t change me, or my outlook on life, it didn’t make me question anything, but perhaps that is a lot to ask of a book, and perhaps my standards are a bit too high. It was just very sad and then a bit happy. There’s nothing wrong with that, I just sort of feel like this was a book the author needed to write, but didn’t necessarily need to be written? That sounds a bit harsh, but I don’t know how else to put it.

It was good, though. If you have a spare hour or two or three it would be a solid read, and I would recommend it.

 

I’ll leave you with that, and of course my rating:

rating: ★★★.5   (3.5 starred review)

let me know how you guys found it!

esmie xx

 

I’ll Give You The Sun – book review

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson is a book about many things. It is a book about Art, and Love and Loss. It also a book about a boy that speaks to horses, and has an entire art gallery inside of his head, a boy that wants and feels so fiercely he holds the whole sky inside his chest. It’s about a girl who gives up the Trees and the Stars and the Oceans for a portrait. A girl who sees ghosts and fervently believes that if a guy gives a girl an orange, her love for him will multiply.

I read this book cover to cover in one day, and then I did it again the next. It alternates points of view from Jude at age 16, an insanely superstitious girl, whose vibrancy and otherness, so apparent in the earlier sections of the book, have been snuffed out by the world and it’s callousness, when we read from her point of view further along the timeline of the story. To her twin; Noah at ages 13-14, who is an artist and a revolutionary and the biggest dork to ever live (see: literally falls in love with the boy next door).

This book was amazing for many reasons. The way the relationships and dynamics between all the characters are shown to the reader never ceases to blow my mind. Nelson’s portrayal of family and all that that entails is painful in its accuracy. In fact, family is one of the main themes in this book, something which is often pushed aside in YA in favour of romance, or the quest to find oneself. I do believe that writing familial relationships, and getting them right is one of the hardest things to achieve. There is of course, the unparalleled-twin-bond between Noah and Jude, that is tested nearly to breaking point and, for a few gut wrenching chapters, beyond that. There is the complex relationship between the twins (as separate entities and as one whole unit) and their parents. There is a constant debate over which twin is their mother’s favourite child, for example. There is also the slow erosion of their parent’s marriage, and Jude’s wonder at her art teacher Guillermo Garcia and everything she wants to learn from him. There is Noah’s friend Heather who softly asks something from him that he is unable to give. There is Oscar and Jude, Noah and Brian, NoahandJude, Noah and Oscar, Jude and Brian-

(and a few other meetings/encounters I will not divulge just yet…)

Most YA novels rely on common tropes like ‘instalove’ and a predetermined soulmate bond to help skirt around the aspect of love that takes time: the falling into it part. I do admit that neither of the romances are exactly slowburn, but this is a standalone novel which does, to a certain degree, eliminate the author’s ability to take their time in building the romance. That being said, I do think that both the relationships that do develop, while being very inevitable, are both wonderfully crafted.

I’ll Give You The Sun is the kind of book you don’t realise you need until you finish it, bleary eyed at 3am, smiling past the tears left over from mere chapters before, and feeling like the world makes a little bit more sense than it did before.

At one point Noah says: “A painting is both exactly the same and entirely different every single time you look at it.” That is how I felt after reading this book.

The story of Noah and Jude will blow you away, and fill you with light, plus it’s the perfect summer read.

rating: ★★★★★ (5 starred review)

(quick warning for: dubious/non-consent, death, implied suicidal-ness and alcoholism/drunkenness).

 

esmie x