In Review: And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

Posted January 3, 2014 by Kim in 3 Stars, In Review / 0 Comments

In Review: And We Stay by Jenny HubbardAnd We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Publication date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: eARC, 240 pages
How I got it: NetGalley
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
My rating:

When high school senior Paul Wagoner walks into his school library with a stolen gun, he threatens his girlfriend Emily Beam, then takes his own life. In the wake of the tragedy, an angry and guilt-ridden Emily is shipped off to boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she encounters a ghostly presence who shares her name. The spirit of Emily Dickinson and two quirky girls offer helping hands, but it is up to Emily to heal her own damaged self.

This inventive story, told in verse and in prose, paints the aftermath of tragedy as a landscape where there is good behind the bad, hope inside the despair, and springtime under the snow.

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in review my thoughts

“Life – and this was what she was learning – was not something that could be controlled, no matter how smart you were or how smart your parents were.”

I’m not entirely sure how to summarize how I felt about And We Stay. I think that’s mostly because I just don’t know how I felt. As much as I wanted to like the book, I just felt like I never truly connected with Emily. I think that’s partially my fault because I’m not someone who tends to enjoy poetry. That’s truthfully what led me to give the book three stars instead of the two I was originally considering. It’s not the author’s fault I don’t like/understand/appreciate most poetry. It didn’t seem right to take off a star because I think my lack of connection with the story is because of that alone.

“Feelings are feelings,” she said, repeating something her grandmother used to say. “There isn’t a rightness or wrongness to them. They just are.”

Emily went through something devastatingly awful. Actually, it was more a series of tough situations and not just one specific thing. I’m not heartless. I did feel sympathy for Emily. I think most anyone would. No teenager should have to deal with the things she did. She was very likable, but because I couldn’t find a level on which I related to her, I found myself missing the connection I have with characters in books I tend to really and thoroughly enjoy.

“No, really. I want to go back. Being a kid teaches you that you’re the queen of your forest, and then whammo. You have to pack up your toys and start playing games with real people. I’m not so sure we’re ready yet. I think we should play with our toys just a little longer.”

All that’s not to say that I didn’t respect what the author did with this book. I absolutely did. This book took an unflinchingly honest – and at times gut-wrenchingly emotional – look at some very tough issues. But as devastating the things that happened in Emily’s past were, the book was also hopeful. She built strong friendships in Massachusetts. I liked that the book focused on Emily healing herself with the help of friends (and the “ghost” of Emily Dickinson) and not by finding another guy. Aside from the flashbacks to her time with Paul, there is no romance in this book. I respect that. I think adding a new romance to Emily’s life would have cheapened the entire book. It was anything but that.

So, while And We Stay might not have been the book for me, I know there are readers who will have a deeper appreciation for it than I did. It was beautifully written and the story was unique. It was real and emotional.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. All quotes come from the review copy and may differ from the final version. 

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About Jenny Hubbard

A former high-school and college English teacher for 17 happy years, Jenny now practices what she preached: the discipline of rewriting, which, in her humble opinion, is the key to a writer’s success.

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