Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading ... The Tragedy Paper

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Just Finished Reading ... The Tragedy Paper

The Tragedy Paper
by Elizabeth Laban
Published by Knopf
on January 8, 2013

Source: bought



My take: When Duncan arrives at his new room at the Irving School, he finds the traditional surprise left for him by a graduating senior. Usually this surprise ranges from the sublime (a bottle of scotch or Yankees tickets) to the ridiculous (three-month-old pizza or a puppy.) But Duncan is left something truly puzzling: a pile of CDs. He begins to play them, and gets drawn in to a story told by Tim, a recent grad who attended Irving for his final semester of high school. On his way to school, Tim met beautiful, popular Vanessa and they spent time together after their flight is canceled. At school, they continued their friendship under the suspicious eye of Vanessa's volatile boyfriend. Every senior at Irving also has to write a "tragedy paper," and it seems that Tim may have left Duncan all the material he'll need for his.

My take: When I was in eighth grade, my English class was assigned A Separate Peace by John Knowles. The story, which takes place in the 1940s, focuses on two friends, one a star student and the other a star athlete. When Finn, the athlete, is badly injured in a fall, his friend Gene, feels partly responsible. As someone who'd never traveled east of the Mississippi, I was obsessed with the entire package: the New England boarding school setting, the tragedy, and the undertones of rivalry between the two friends.

Reading The Tragedy Paper, I was drawn right back to eighth grade. Like A Separate Peace, this book has a thoughtful, old-fashioned feel. I loved the way that the book portrays the boarding school setting and all its quirky traditions.

The structure of the The Tragedy Paper reminded me of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  Duncan is given a stack of CDs to listen to, just as Clay is given a box of cassette tapes by Hannah Baker. I felt this narrative technique worked better in Thirteen Reasons Why, because Clay played a more integral part in Hannah's story than Duncan did in Tim's. The scenes where Duncan isn't listening to the tapes dragged a little for me.

In contrast, Tim's sections were fantastic. Tim has achromia, which means that his skin and hair have no melanin. He's supposed to avoid the sun and wear special glasses outdoors. Tim's relationship with Vanessa is one of those "regular guy infatuated with a beautiful girl" kind of things (see 2012's Burning Blue by Paul Griffin or Not Exactly A Love Story by Audrey Couloumbis) that just can't end well. And, as is often in the case in these sorts of stories, I didn't find Vanessa exactly worthy of Tim's blind adoration. She has a complete jackass of a boyfriend, whom she refuses to kick to the curb because his mother recently died. But I don't know, I'd be willing to bet that he was also a jerk before that.

There's a ton of foreshadowing in The Tragedy Paper. Not only does Tim tell Duncan that he'll give him his material for a tragedy paper, Vanessa tells Tim about a curse that's reputed to eliminate a member of the senior class each year. While I loved the suspense that this evoked, the risk with this kind of set-up is that you're waiting a long time for the payoff and, as the pages turn, your expectations rise. In this case, I wished the ending had a little more resonance and engaged my emotions more.

But all in all, The Tragedy Paper provides a lot of food for thought. It's not the typical boy-meets-girl YA contemporary. Tim is a fantastic character, and I really enjoyed his take on the world.

Interested in this book? It will be one of the offerings in my January RAK giveaway later this month!

32 comments:

  1. I am interested in this book-I got a copy through Amazon Vine and I'm thrilled to be learning more about. I love a quieter book and contemporary is my genre so I have high hopes for this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I can't wait to pick this one up soon! I like the cover and since it reminds me of Thirteen Reasons Why I have to check it out. Quieter book sounds good :))

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This one DOES remind me of 13 Reasons. Check it out!

      Delete
  3. This doesn't really sound like the kind of book I would read but I'm glad you enjoyed it. Great review :)
    World of Books

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm looking forward to reading it. I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

    Brandy @ A Little of the Book Life

    ReplyDelete
  5. Seeing this under your little "currently reading" spot was the first I've heard of this novel. I probably wouldn't have given it a second thought if it hadn't been for your review, though. Gonna add it to my TBR and hopefully I'll remember to make time for it soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *looks to see if I updated my currently reading*

      It's an interesting book, and something a little different!

      Delete
  6. This sounds great! I think I would love this one. Thanks for the fantastic review!

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is the second review of this book that I've read today and my interest is definitely piqued. I haven't read TRW, but now I want to read both of these. I LOVE boarding schools.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I didn't like the sound of this book when I first heard it about it, but I've read nothing but good reviews the last few days, and I'm definitely interested now! Thanks Jen :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is a great review, Jen! It has definitely sparked my attention. This book seems like something that I would definitely enjoy reading. However, I like the fact that while you liked the book, you were honest about the parts you did not enjoy as much.
    I also enjoyed that you related it to A Separate Peace in the fashion that you did, because I too remember reading that book in eighth grade and your review brought me right back to my own English class.
    I liked the correlation between the two stories and I also thought it was clever to contrast the style of Thirteen Reasons Why, with that of The Tragedy Paper.
    You were also right to point out the allure of the unknown of boarding school pieces. The intertwined, sometimes unorthodox, little known reality of such places have been a cornerstone for many timeless classics because it holds an appeal of a world and lifestyle set apart.
    Keep up the good work!

    Jeff Rivera
    Bestselling Author
    "UM ... MOMMY I THINK I FLUSHED MY BROTHER DOWN THE TOILET"
    http://amzn.to/RUltKc

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by and best of luck with the book.

      Delete
  10. This sounds interesting, although I don't know about a journey back to middle school, lol.
    Happy reading,
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, that was probably just me. I was SO obsessed with A Separate Peace. Part of the reason I went to college on the East coast.

      Delete
  11. Great review! I agree that the parts where the focus is on Duncan isn't as good as Tim's. Overall I enjoyed the book and I'm glad you did as well. Thanks for checking out my review!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hmm, never heard of this book but I love a good emotional read. Plus one with puzzles and mystery is good. Thanks so much for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I feel out of the loop. I don't know any of the books you're reading nowadays...

    ReplyDelete
  14. This one caught my eye this past week and am hoping to give it a try. Your review is the first one that I have read and I appreciate all of the comparisons. Terrific review.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Yay Jen, so glad you liked it. I was quite impressed ;) and I agree with you. I felt like Dunxan didn't really have a ton of connection and that Tim was much more interesting to read.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I've seen this around, but had not looked into it further. I like the sound of it. How does the cover fit in?

    ReplyDelete
  17. I knew I wanted to read this when I saw it on one of your other posts but an Albino Boarding School Boy?! Sold! I know I have said in other comments that I did the boarding school thing and while we did have some quirky traditions and a couple ghosts stories we didn't have any fun mysteries. Maybe it's because my school was in Iowa...huh. Either way I can't wait to read this book. Loved your review!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I want to read this book so much now!! I will be back for your January RAK giveaway!!

    Also, I've loved boarding schools in books for awhile (from my obsession with going to a Swiss boarding school like Elizabeth Wakefield wanted to go to in Sweet Valley High to Dead Poet's Society). This sounds right up my alley! Plus, I liked Burning Blue, which I found to be a bit outside of mainstream YA.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I have never heard of this book but I LOVE boarding school type settings in books and the music parts really intrigue me too. Kind of reminds me of Saving June when the protag finds a mixed tape that her sister was listening to when she committed suicide. Thanks for putting this one on my radar:)

    ReplyDelete
  20. I have this book and am hoping to read it in March..glad you enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I hope you'll leave me a comment. I read and appreciate each and every one and try my best to reply. Leave me a link to your blog or website!

 
Blog design by Imagination Designs