BOOK IN REVIEW: And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard10:08 PM
Received an arc in exchange for an honest review
Title: And We Stay
Author: Jenny Hubbard
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication date: January 28, 2014
Hardbound: 240 pages
Rating: 4/5 stars
And We Stay is a wonderful masterpiece of prose and poetry. It's a book that mirrors the loss and tragedy of Emily's life through the main narrative and through Emily's own poetry. I've never come across a book that has tackled death and loss the way Hubbard did it in her book. Although I hate chapter in betweeners, in this novel I felt like Emily's poetry was complementary to the story and was essential to drive the plot further. At some point, I even felt like I wanted to read the poetry more than the actual narrative, as Emily became even more real through the poetry.
And We Stay was a quick read, despite the theme to be very tragic. A lot of issues such as abortion, suicide and depression were brought to light in the story, something that is very challenging to do in a decent way. I also found the characters to be very real and relatable - Emily, Paul, her friends, teachers, everyone. All the characters are believable, none of them being overly dramatic or angsty, and their actions properly justified. This is the kind of book that I felt like so many things were happening, but nothing was happening much at all. And We Stay didn't jam pack you with too much events but you could feel things happening for the characters, especially Emily as she comes to terms with her grief. Thus, there was a very calm and poetic atmosphere while reading the book - something that I appreciated immensely. There were no screaming and bawling dramatic intense scenes. It was very simple and silent, which I loved. I also love how they paralleled Emily to Emily Dickinson, I felt like it was very apt and a unique way to go with the story while at the same time having the readers learn more about Dickinson.
I hate reading books with premises about characters dying but the approach on this one is very fresh, and I really liked getting into Emily's head. However, my problem with this book is how I couldn't seem to connect with it in a bigger long term scale. It was a good read, but I just didn't get hit by a tidal wave of feels... It was pretty sad, but not melancholic enough for me to actually think about the characters after finishing the book. Also, I don't like how Hubbard set this in 1995. It felt too constraining. I did not really understand the purpose of setting this in the 90s, as the story is actually very timeless. By setting it in 1995 you're just putting a border around the story and boxing it in that time period. The third person voice also didn't work that well for me either, as I hoped it could've been more personal with a first person POV.
This isn't a book for just anyone. I think this is the kind of book that not everyone is going to like, but I do think that it is definitely worth giving a shot.