I was provided a free e-book ARC of this novel via NetGalley and Random House Children’s Delacorte Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for this opportunity. All opinions in this review are mine and not affected by any outside sources.
Emily Beam’s boyfriend Paul walked into the high school library not intending to die. He threatens his girlfriend and then takes his own life. Emily is thrown into grief, confusion, and numbness. Her parents insist on Emily transferring to a boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts so she can “heal.” While here, Emily encounters Emily Dickinson–the past poet whose hometown now includes the boarding school. With the help of some interesting friends and caring teachers, Emily learns about herself, how to make friends, and how to fix her damaged self. Hubbard takes readers on a journey through verse and prose as we witness the before, during, and after of Paul’s death.
With this novel it is clear to say that some will hate it and others will really like it. It’s hard to say if there will be much middle ground when it comes to this novel. It’s told in third person point of view and Hubbard doesn’t take us inside the minds of the other characters and barely into Emily’s mind. Some find it hard to connect with Emily and without that connection it’s hard to like the novel. Personally I think the mix reviews on this novel is because of different readers’ life experiences. The novel overall deals with loss and grief. I connected to this immediately. I connected with Emily. I understood her pain as I’ve personally gone through loosing someone close. I don’t think it’s an age issue as some have said the older you are the more you’d might like it. I think age wouldn’t matter, just your experiences in life and then the ability to connect those with this story and with Emily.
When I was only a few pages in, I knew this would be one of the best books I’ve read in awhile, if not for this year. Hubbard’s writing style is beautiful. The way she interwoven poetry and prose is wonderfully done and a hard skill to possess. The poems are “written” by Emily which is another great feat that Hubbard has accomplished. The writing style is definitely what I really fell in love with in this novel. Hubbard also seamlessly shifted from past into present–taking readers through the events before, during and after Paul’s suicide. It was gracefully done.
Emily as a character I can see being hard to connect to unless you were able to insert your own feeling and experiences into her character. Being able to bring yourself into the novel helps bring the connection between you and Emily. I understood Emily and that let me connect with her. I do know that this will be a struggle for most and will turn some away.
Another struggle some might come upon is the pacing in the novel. Where I found the pacing to be fine others might find it slow. This isn’t an action novel or a novel with any subplots. It’s focused on Emily’s character development in the wake of tragedy. It’s Emily reflecting on the moments leading up to Paul’s suicide, the day of Paul’s suicide, and the present she’s living through now. Without any connect with Emily as a character, this novel might even turn unbearably slow for some.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. I enjoyed reading Emily (and Paul’s) story. I loved Hubbard’s writing skill and her ability to take me on this journey. I connected with Emily’s story and loved the interwoven poetry that appeared throughout the novel. Some might disagree with my rating, but this is honestly how I feel about this book. I really connected with it and thought it was a fresh, emotional, and beautiful read.
She wants nothing to do with poems, either, but in the long shadow of death, they creep in.
My Final Grade.
My Grade: A
Amazon’s Rating: 4/5 stars (14 reviews)
The Blurb via GoodReads
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.
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.
What are your thoughts on And We Stay? Did you connect with Emily or were you thrown off by the POV? How did you feel about the poetry throughout? Did you enjoy Hubbard’s writing style? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! I’d really love to hear what you think!