Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer – not my kind of jam

belzharTitle: Belzhar

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.


You’re welcome.


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.


Rating: 2/5 Wonderkitties



17 thoughts on “Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer – not my kind of jam

  1. Can I just hug that pun in the title. It’s perfect.

    I loved the idea of this book as well. It’s such a shame that it didn’t pan out the way that I had envisioned it to (um that horrible ending). I still don’t get that goat birthing scene (and Charlotte’s web was totally spoiled!) In my opinion, it was totally unnecessary or perhaps I’m not smart enough to grasp the hidden meaning LOL I’m such a horrible human being because I’ve yet to read The Bell Jar. Wow. I’ve got to fix that. Fantastic review, Emily!

  2. THAT GIF OF GRU. That sums up the ending so so perfectly. Yessss. You win all the awards for A+ gifing skills, ma’am. BUT ANYWAY. I totally 100% agree with your review. Although I had no idea that’s how you pronounced Belzhar. I just spent most of my time trying to type it right. (I think I got it?) For some reason I kept typing it as “Belthazar” which is from the Bible so WHO KNOWS WHAT MY BRAIN IS DOING. It rearranges letters as it pleases.

  3. Goat birthing? So you mean they where describing the birth of a goat!? is that what that means? That must have been awkward.
    I really really like reading your reviews, I especially LOVE the gifs you choose. You are by far, My FAVORITE book blogger. ON THE INTERNET. 😀

  4. I feel almost 100% exactly the same about this book. I just couldn’t connect to it at all. Considering the title is a fancy shmancy pronunciation of Bell Jar, you’d think our lady Sylvia would have been featured a little more. I mean, I thought there would be HEAPS of Sylvia references, and there were barely any. SIGH.

    And yes, the ending was just 100% totally weird.

  5. I’ve seen some mixed review for Belzhar *tries saying it in the fancy proper way* and so I’m pretty torn as to whether I will actually end up reading it or not. On the one hand, the Sylvia Plath mentions (The Bell Jar is a book I can’t wait to read once it’s in at the library) and magical realism make me really interested, while the sound of a disappointing ending means I’m a little hesitant. Anyway, as always – great review Emily 🙂 – it’s definitely given me something to think about!

  6. Goat birthing? Um. Okay? That sounds… interesting…

    From what I can tell from people’s reviews of this, I’m either going to like it or I’m not — and that seems to depend a lot on Jam. I do really want to read this one eventually, though I can foresee myself wanting to borrow it from the library instead of buying it. Well, at least now I know how to pronounce Belzhar. 😛 Question: Should I read The Bell jar before? I mean, I know it’s not necessary, but it might make me understand the book more.


      Yep, it all revolves around Jam. I might have actually liked this book if it was narrated by someone else. I don’t think it’s necessary to read The Bell Jar before, though – all the info you need comes from the book anyway 🙂

  7. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves and first week of year twelve | The Loony Teen Writer

  8. Woah, I had no idea this was based off the Bell Jar, which I have read as well! I’ve since learnt that magical realism isn’t really for me because I usually want ANSWERS. Thanks for the pronunciation lesson as well, I totally went “JACQUES” and “BELJAARRR” in my head 😀

  9. Oh no, I’m so sorry you didn’t enjoy this more. I went the other way and actually really liked it. Jam WAS incredibly hard to connect with, her story was tragic and I really felt for her. But that ending? Left me really torn and it lost some of that magic it spun for me. I can totally see why you couldn’t get past her whining. It was a little dramatic and overdone at times. I hope your next read is so much better. Brilliantly honest review Em ❤

  10. Such a wonderful review, Em – thanks for sharing! 😀 I’m sorry this book didn’t work for you – but I’m glad you loved the magical realism aspect. I recently received this book, and I’m very intrigued by it. I’ve been having trouble connecting to all sorts of characters lately, so will probably experience it in this novel as well. However, I am extremely curious in finding out what that plot-twist ending is!

  11. After reading so many positive reviews for this, I’m SO GLAD I’m not the only person who didn’t enjoy this. As I was reading your review, I just kept saying “Yes!” and “Exactly!” Like you, I didn’t like Jam. At all. And that ending – NOPE. It made me want to throw my book across the room. I also felt that the book spent too much time on certain things (like the goat birthing, which felt completely irrelevant), yet didn’t spend enough time on the relationships, leaving to insta-friendships and instalove. Great review!

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