And We Stay
by Jenny Hubbard
Random House Children's
Pub Date: Jan 28, 2014
I received an ARC of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
And We Stay is about a girl named Emily who is sent away to a boarding school in Amherst, MA after her boyfriend kills himself right in front of her. Over the course of the story, through Emily's poetry and flashbacks, we learn her secret and the details of why this boy did what he did. At school, Emily makes two friends and also starts to feel a connection to the late poet Emily Dickinson, and we get to see how both of these things help her to heal.
So first, let me say that I love the premise of this novel. Even though I prefer realistic novels, I love how Emily starts to sense the presence of Emily Dickinson. Just this tiny element of the supernatural makes the story interesting. Second, I love the boarding school setting. I'm always drawn to stories that take place at a boarding school. (Looking for Alaska and Winger are a couple great ones.) Also, I've been to Amherst many times and it's a really cute town. I actually would have liked to see more scenes take place off campus.
All right, let's talk about the characters. I really liked a secondary character, K.T., who is Emily's roommate. I think she was memorable because she surprised me. When Emily first meets K.T., I expected her to be annoying, superficial, and maybe even mean. Basically, an over-used side character in YA. I see this so many times where the protagonist is forced to deal with a character like this, not necessarily the antagonist, who seems to be there only to make the protagonist look cooler. But anyway, my first impression of K.T. was wrong, and she develops into, not only an interesting character, but a real friend to Emily.
I was also really drawn to Emily. She was dealing with a whole lot when she arrived at this school, and I appreciated the way she handled herself. I found myself rooting for her.
One other thing that I really, really appreciated about this story was the handling of certain difficult subject matter. I'm not going to discuss it here, because I want to keep this review spoiler free, but I do go into more detail in my review over on my YouTube channel. So I'll put the link to that video down below if you'd like to check it out.
Now here's where I felt a little disappointed with the book.
Like I said, I really liked the premise of the story, especially the connection with Emily Dickinson. But I actually would have liked to see that connection and maybe even the supernatural elements taken a bit further.
My biggest question about this novel, though, has to do with the plot as a whole. First, I want to say that I enjoyed reading this book the entire way through. I really did. BUT once I got a little more than halfway through, I started to feel like the book was either moving too fast, or there wasn't enough book left to finish the story. If that makes any sense at all. By the time I finished, I felt like I had only read the first 50 pages of a novel, rather than the entire thing. Everything that happened in the story only felt like a first act. I guess because I liked the book, I wanted more of it. At the end of the story, we see that Emily is well on her way to healing, but I felt like not enough happened to provoke that character development. Even the climatic scene seemed like it could have occurred in the novel's first 20 pages, and then the story could have continued from there. This is hard to explain, because I've never experienced this feeling after reading a novel before.
Bottom line, though, I really did enjoy reading this novel.
If you'd like to hear me talk more about this book, you can check out my video here: Read First, Write Second