by Jenny Hubbard
To be published by Delacorte
on January 28, 2014
Source: Thanks to Random House for allowing me to read an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley. My full FTC disclosure is on the right sidebar.
Synopsis (adapted from Goodreads:) In the wake of a 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.My take: I enjoyed Jenny Hubbard's first book, the Morris award nominated Paper Covers Rock, so I had been looking forward to reading And We Stay. Excited .... until I realized the story incorporated poems. (According to Publishers Weekly, Paper Covers Rock also contained poems, but I guess I'd blocked out that fact.) For that reason, my excitement about the book was tempered by wariness by the time I sat down to read. In addition, I hadn't read the synopsis for a while, and based on the book's dedication, I was under a misapprehension about the nature of the tragedy that Emily suffered. (I think that my reading experience was improved by my ignorance in that regard, so I edited those details out of the synopsis above.)
But -- and I'll cut to the chase in case you're getting impatient -- by the end of this book I was very impressed. And We Stay is a beautifully told story of grief and loss, of secrets and guilt. The third person present POV did take some getting used to at first, but I quickly adjusted. By the end of the book I was even impressed by Emily Beam's poetry and the way it complemented the story.
Another thing that intrigued me was the fact that And We Stay isn't technically a contemporary book. The book takes place in the mid-1990s at a New England boarding school for girls. At times it seemed to me that the story was set in the past as a way to eliminate 21st century technology from the plot. For reasons that I won't go into, it occurred to me that various aspects of the story wouldn't have worked if Emily had a cellphone and a Facebook account. Secrets would have been spilled, people trying to avoid one another would found that exceedingly difficult, and maybe Emily Beam would have tweeted instead of writing those poems.
If you enjoy literary writing, realistic YA, and books about about loss and forgiveness and friendship, I definitely recommend And We Stay.
ETA: The book is NOT all poems. Just in case you're allergic to that kind of book, like I am. There is regular prose, and there are some poems.