Saturday, May 7, 2016

BellZhar by Meg Wolizter

Meg Wolitzer is known for her adult novels - many of which I've read and enjoyed - so I wanted to try this novel, a Young Adult novel. It also is a play on words and references The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, which I LOVED reading and is one of the books that I often read over and over and over again. The majority of this novel takes place at a boarding school in Vermont where emotionally fragile and highly intelligent teens go. The narrator, Jam Gallahue, is a student that "was sent [there] because of a boy" - it's a boy named Reeve that we see throughout the novel, often with Jam. One of the classes that Jam is registered for is a highly selective English class called "Special Topics in English" (there are only 6 students total in the class). Each student receives a beautiful, old, red leather journal that they are told they must write in as part of the class. While writing in the journals, the students start having extraordinary experiences.  The novel follows the students through these experiences and along their journey in becoming their new "normal."

Even though this book isn't like Wolitzer's adult novels, I still enjoyed it. It was a very quick read and only took me a day or two. I admit that I stayed up past my bedtime to read the book - which should tell you how engaging it and the characters are. I did like the characters too - they were relatable and all of them had triggering events that were not beyond the realm of possibility in the real world. Don't be tricked by the title though - if you're looking for a ton of Sylvia Plath or to get any insight into HER short life, you're looking in the wrong place. The class studies Plath but that is the extent of her appearances really - there is also some brief discussion of a small portion of her work. This is a novel about friendship, hope, struggle and eventually, recovery.  Wolitzer seems to be very strong in this sort of theme. There is profound self discovery and the journals are the source of that self discovery.  I highly encourage buying/reading this book!

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