Friday, April 12, 2013
The Tragedy Paper
The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan
Alfred A. Knopf, 2013
Source: Received an ARC from Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.
I'm a sucker for stories set at boarding schools and I read enough positive reviews of this to want to check it out. I'll admit that this might have been a better book to read on a chilly, snowy night but I live in California so I don't get many of those and just plunged ahead with this fast, absorbing read on a weekend.
It tells the overlapping tales of two male seniors at an elite boarding school in New England. Duncan is dreading his approaching senior year with the pressure to produce a tragedy paper, the standard senior assignment there as well as facing nervousness over what room he'll receive and what legacy he'll receive from the previous occupant. He is overwhelmed to receive the room of Tim, whose senior year provides the framework for Duncan's tragedy paper. Through a set of CDs narrated by Tim, Duncan receives some answers that allow him to come to terms with tragedy.
Tim is an albino, which has marked him out as different for his entire life. But on his way to a new school, he meets Vanessa and dares to hope for a romantic relationship. Once they're on the campus, she is his friend but she sticks to her jerky boyfriend even as their secret friendship flourishes. One night though changes everything; this is also the night that hangs over Duncan's head and that the tapes bring him closure about.
As I said, I found this to be a very absorbing read; I was barely able to put it down. Although I normally skip over literary fiction preferring a plot-driven story, I thought this book was not too difficult while still being thought-provoking. I didn't feel very connected to either of the leads but I had sympathy for their plights. Both have a lot hanging over them and it tugged at my heartstrings.
But for a book with a title as dramatic as The Tragedy Paper, I was expecting an ending that was, well, more tragic. When I hear tragedy, I think Hamlet with almost everyone dying and, I don't want to spoil anything but, that is not exactly the case here. I just feel like more should have been at stake and I felt a little let down with the ending.
Overall: An approachable YA literary title that should especially please fans of boarding school settings.
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