Monday, 27 January 2014

Review: And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: Hardcover / eBook
Released: January 28th, 2014
Rating: 8.5/10

Amazon summary:

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. 


It's been quite a while since I read a book by a new-to-me author and immediately wanted to read everything they've written so far. I'm happy to say that this was the case with Jenny Hubbard's And We Stay and, upon finishing it, I quickly hotfooted it to Amazon to purchase a copy of her debut novel, Paper Covers Rock.

I fell in love with And We Stay from the very first page. Something about it spoke to me straight away, and I almost read the book in one single sitting. It's written beautifully, with care and understanding, and is part prose, part verse. I'm a sucker for verse and poetry being included in YA novels, so this book was basically perfect for me. The poetry is used in such a great way, and integrates a lot of history and facts about Emily Dickinson, one of America's great poets. Before reading this book I only knew of Emily Dickinson because she was mentioned in Season 1 of Buffy, but now I know a lot more about her and actually really like her work - I did some research, thanks to Jenny Hubbard and her obvious like of this lady!

The Emily in And We Stay is also a poet, using her words as an outlet to get through a tough time in her life. Her boyfriend killed himself in her old school library, and she's still reeling and picking up the pieces. Obviously an event like that affects everybody differently, but for Emily it's worse, because she knew him best and she knows what the reasons for his actions could be. There's a ton of guilt on her shoulders, not to mention sadness and grief. Changing schools and going to a boarding school is the best thing that could have happened to her, and her healing process is all documented in this book, through poetry and words and Emily Dickinson.

I took to Emily right away and found myself with an overwhelming feeling of empathy for her. I don't know why; I've thankfully never been in a situation like hers, but I can imagine it all too well. Her quiet personality and gentle thoughts made me love her, and I was honestly sad to say goodbye to her at the end of the book. She's such a strong character, dealing with everything going on in her life and still managing to write it all down. Some of the verse written by Emily is haunting and understated; a real highlight of the novel for me. I bookmarked several pieces and went back to read them over again. They're filled with emotion, standing out like a streetlight on a dark road.

I wish I could say more about this book, but to do that would be to spoil it for other readers who have no idea what's about to unfold on the pages of And We Stay. This is one of those books that utterly gripped me and got inside my head, and I'm so glad I was given the chance to read it. There honestly isn't one thing I disliked about it, not even the dark themes running through it that made it anything but a perfect Christmas read. Seriously though, if this is the kind of book that January has to offer, then 2014 looks set to be a very good year indeed.


Cass (Words on Paper) said...

On your review: wow. I really want to read this book NOW. I really adored this cover the second I saw it and from the synopsis I knew I'd want to get around to reading it. It just sounds like my kind of read (because it's got death, grieving and poetry in it - which apparently seems to be 'my thing'). Emily sounds like a great protagonist. :)

quinnsbooknook said...

Wow, now I really want to read this book. It seems very powerful. I've never been a huge fan of poetry. It's not that I hate it, but I don't love it. But I am curious to see what Emily does with.

caroline.taylor078 said...

I am really torn on whether to read this book, I love the sound of the story but I really struggle with poetry in books, hmmm, decisions, decisions!

Becky Scott said...

Okay I so want to read this now. Loved Paper Covers Rock. I had no idea she had a new book out. It sounds really emotive. Great review Jenny.