Author: Meg Wolitzer
Genre: YA magical realism
Length: 264 pages
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Source: received for review (thanks, Simon and Schuster!!)
If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing him in the library stacks.
She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.
But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.
Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.
A quick pronunciation guide for this novel:
You have to say it fancily.
Like with the French “J.” You know how you say “Jacques”? With the weird jzzhhhh sound at the start? That’s how you pronounce Belzhar.
I liked this book in theory.
It’s such an interesting, unique concept, and if things had been slightly different this might have been a book I fell in love with. The world of “Belzhar” is a place within the students’ journals where they go to experience…things. I’m not going to tell you WHAT those things are, because that’s a spoiler (and it’s better if you see for yourself, anyway).
It’s all related to Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar – a novel which I absolutely LOVED when I read it.
I did want to see more of Sylvia Plath within the novel. There were some excerpts from her poetry but it was never really discussed in-depth.
So yep. I liked the magical realism side of it, because you don’t see that often in YA.
Unfortunately, because of Jam I failed to connect with the story.
Jam was…an interesting character. But right from the beginning, I didn’t feel a sense of connection to her. There was a lot of repetition about how she couldn’t live without her boyfriend and…okay, I tried to be sympathetic but I couldn’t. She got on my nerves and coloured my thoughts about the book as a whole.
Plus I felt some parts were really unnecessary.
Why did we need a goat birthing? I have no idea. Maybe there’s some metaphorical reasoning that I’m missing – and I’m often wrong – but I just didn’t get it. There were a few of these moments where I had no idea what point it was supposed to make.
And then there was the ending.
I did not like the ending. Yup, it was a huge plot twist, and I didn’t see it coming, but MY GOSH was it a displeasing ending. It actually annoyed me quite a lot. I won’t say any more because SPOILERS but Jam was definitely one of my least favourite narrators in a long time (that’s mean, isn’t it? It probably is but I really didn’t like her).
You may like it. Don’t by any means trust MY account of this book when there are many, many positive reviews. People seem to either love this one or hate it, and I just happen to be one of the unfortunate ones in that. An interesting concept, but in the end I didn’t connect to Jam, and the ending just reinforced this even more.