Reviews · Young Adult

Something to Think About: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

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We Are Okay

Title: We Are Okay
Author: Nina LaCour
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: February 14, 2017
Rating: 5★
Recommended For: Those looking for character studies and good writing over fast-paced plot. Those looking for a raw, honest portrayal of grief.

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need. . .. Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart. –Penguin Random House

YAY: A young adult book that emphasizes character over convention, emotion over plot; diverse cast (two queer girls, and one of them is Latina); beautiful cover, quick read

NAY: Little to no action, and neither main character labels their sexuality (I didn’t mind this, but it might bother some readers)


Sometimes, a book has to be read at the right time in someone’s life to be enjoyed to its full capability. Otherwise, the reader may be able to enjoy the writing, the characters, and the style, but they may not be able to fully connect to the ideas or emotion the author attempts to convey in the novel. From my experience, and the other reviews I’ve seen from book bloggers, We Are Okay by Nina LaCour seems to be one of those books.

The book opens with an introduction to Marin, a freshman at a New York college. She used to live in California with her grandfather in the beach-side town where her mother died, but now she’s living sparsely out of her dorm room. Winter break is about to begin, and Marin’s roommate is worried about leaving her alone on campus when she goes home for the holidays. Not only will Marin be the only person in the dorms, but it will be the first time she experiences a New England winter, which is quite different from the Californian winters she’s used to. However, Main won’t be along for long, because the best friend–and maybe more–she’s avoided for over half a year will be flying to visit, and Marin will be forced to deal with the events that drove her away from California in the first place.

A lot of reviews emphasize that this novel is a stark, honest portrayal of grief and mourning, but what really spoke to me was how the novel deals with identity formation in relation to grief. Marin doesn’t just have to come to terms with what happened, she also has to consider who she is now in the aftermath.

That being said, I want to stress that this book is not for everyone. I’ve read a lot of negative critiques that say the book was boring, or failed in its purpose because it’s slow and doesn’t have much of a plot. However, I think that’s kind of unfair considering that’s not what this book is about. It’s like opening up Harry Potter and being like, Hey! There are no spaceships in this! There are moments of intensity and suspense in We Are Okay, but mostly it’s a quiet, emotional journey. If that’s not what you’re looking for, then I suggest waiting to pick this up. It’s just not the right time for you to enjoy this book.

 

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