Rummanah Aasi
 There are different ways people grieve. Some clam up and want to be left alone while others use writing as catharsis, trying to articulate what can't be said verbally. Jenny Hubbard's latest novel, And We Stay, is a lyrical story that takes readers on a journey towards healing after a tragedy. Many thanks to the publisher for providing me an advanced reader's copy of this book via Netgalley.


Description: 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.

Review: And We Stay is a beautifully and powerfully written novel about overcoming guilt,and healing after a tragic loss. Emily Beam is a new student at Amherst School for Girls. She enrolled in the school in January of her junior year and no one knows why. There are of course rumors circulating about her, but none of them come close to reality. Only Emily knows the tragic truth and ruminates about it quietly while scribbling away in her secret journal, each time revealing a bit more about the circumstances leading up to the day when her boyfriend entered the school library where she was working with her class, lured her into the stacks to talk, and then shot himself in the head.
  The book has an unique structure that may not work for some readers as it mixes prose and poetry as well as narrative tenses throughout the story. In past-tense flashbacks, readers learn the circumstances of Emily and Paul's relationship, while the poems Emily writes in her present-day environment infuse those same circumstances with newly realized perceptions. The narrative switches to present tense when it relates Emily's current life in boarding school, a fresh and unexplored world with emerging possibilities as well as potential pitfalls. 
  Due to the layered structure of the novel, the story's pacing is uneven though that might be intentional. I found the present to a bit slow to read, but I wanted to know what lead to the devastating events so I continued to read. Once the past is unveiled, I read the book quickly. I loved how Hubbard uses poetry to show Emily's the state of Emily's psyche. Poetry is very personal and Hubbard uses the right amount of words in length and in weight to show Emily's psyche. The poems are not to be skipped as they show Emily's extraordinary growth and talent as well as her connection to her namesake, Emily Dickinson, who lived and wrote just down the street from the boarding school, and draws on her spirit to pour her emotions onto paper. I learned a few interesting tidbits about Dickinson while reading this book too.
  And We Stay is a book that will receive critical acclaim though it may have a small readership. The book addresses hard hitting issues such as teen suicide, depression, and even abortion yet despite the heavy topics, it offers hope of a brighter future. Budding poets may particularly appreciate Emily's story, but there is certainly something for anyone looking for a good read with a strong, believable female lead who is working her hardest to overcome tragedy.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, discussion and allusion to sex and abortion. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Death, Dickinson, and the demented Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez, You Don't Know Me by David Klass, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Looking For Alaska by John Green
7 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    I'm not sure this is the book for me Rummanah as I think I would struggle with the mix of prose and poetry and the switching from past to present. I tend to get confused easily, and all the dancing around in this book would probably through me off. That being said though, I love how powerful this story sounds, and I think it's fantastic that it deals with heavier issues. Books like this are important I think:) Lovely review!


  2. I know I would love the beauty of the writing and the verse, but I just can't bring myself to read this one, the pacing and the topics put me off even though I know it has important messages. I am in a reading slump and I don't think this would be the book to get me out of it.


  3. Lauren D. Says:

    This sounds like a wonderful story that deals with tough issues with a good dose of optimism and artistry. I wonder if the poetry mixed in will work for me or not, but I'm definitely curious now to find out. Lovely review!


  4. Sounds interesting and a bit emotional. Still, I like the sound of the layers and that is really is about healing. I also like that you feel it will get good acclaim. Hm... will have to think about this one.


  5. Aylee Says:

    Huh, it's interesting that this one switches between tenses and poetry and prose. It's hard to say whether I would like that or not... I wonder whether it would distract from the story for me. And I don't always do well with poetry. Still, it definitely sounds powerful and I am very curious if I would take to this one, so I'm thinking I should try it out sometime! It's good to go outside your comfort zone every once in a while :) Thanks for this review!!


  6. I wondered whether Hubbard could pull this one off. I've loved and been let down by her books written as Hubbard and Amanda Grace. But this one sounds exactly what I am searching for. Especially as I connected with most of the recommended books you listed below the review. I'm picking this one up! Terrific review!


  7. I've read the author's novels as Amanda Grace and found them okay. I may have to give this one a try though, Rummanah, as it seems like it explores some heavy themes quite well. Thanks for the recommendation!


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