Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Title: Belzhar
Author: Meg Wolitzer
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Source: Simon & Schuster Australia

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.

From New York Times bestselling author Meg Wolitzer comes a breathtaking and surprising story about first love, deep sorrow, and the power of acceptance.
Review by Nara

Belzhar was one strange book. Magical realism isn't something I see too often in YA, so I was actually quite looking forward to digging into the story. And I can honestly say I wasn't disappointed with what I got. While perhaps there were a couple of things here and there that reduced my overall rating, on the whole, Belzhar was a well written, engaging novel with just that little twist of fantasy.

I'm not really too sure how I'd rate the predictability. I mean, I sure as heck didn't expect the big twist, but I feel like it was almost too left field. Perhaps there was a lot of foreshadowing that I missed or something, but I really feel like the twist wasn't something I could accept from a character like Jam. I think mostly I just had trouble understanding how something like that could have happened when Jam seemed like such a reasonable person. In any case, this big twist didn't really have that big an impact on how I viewed the book- the writing was still fantastic, the characters were still interesting and the mysteries were still captivating.

While our main character was obviously Jam, I actually found the stories of the supporting characters to be more compelling than the overarching plotline. There are several other characters in the mysterious "Special Topics in English" class where each member receives a diary that allows them access to the world of "Belzhar", and each of there stories is revealed over the course of the book. Seriously, there was such a variety of tragic backstories, it was ridiculous, but this did make for some interesting reading.

Quite short but nonetheless containing a rather large bang, Belzhar is a book about grief and acceptance in the midst of a growing romance and a land of magical realism. I would certainly recommend it to people looking for a quick but dense read.

Really liked it

Overall: 7/10
Plot: 4/5
Romance: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 2/5