Tricksy. Odd. Clever.
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.
‘Tricksy’ isn’t a word. But it does describe this book. I’m smiling even as I write this review and remember, because it got me. It got me good.
The unreliable narrator is a beautiful thing, unless it’s being blown like an ugly trumpet.. and then, well, it’s just an ugly trumpet!
Wolitzer is a freakin’ master. No ugly trumpets here. Teach me, sensei! Teach me!
I thought this book was quirky from the outset. I mean, the use of Sylvia Plath as a conduit (because ‘Belzhar’ isn’t so dissimilar from ‘Bell Jar’, true?) is so clever. I love Plath’s writing and it was an interesting way to relate a story, with the teenage characters reacting to her work in class, and then having some sort of out of body therapy sessions… It was cool.
Something like this could be hard for a writer to effectively suspend disbelief, because at its very core, it’s ridiculous, but I was all in. I believed.
The characters were great fun getting to know, and I adored the careful blossoming of new love.
I don’t want to say too much because the ending of this book was phenomenal. It sucked the wind out of me and I think I even laughed. I knew that something akin to that was coming, but I hadn’t even considered the possibility of…
Yeah. You’re just going to have to read it. Or DM me on Twitter. Ha ha!
I could identify with the protagonist, Jam, painfully. I think the nature of her defence mechanisms are like a heightened and extreme version of my own, and that made me feel quite raw.
Also: goats. *sad face*
Concept – 4/5
Plot – 3.5/5
Ending or Twist – 5/5
Overall – 4/5
(Borrowed from my local library. Opinions borrowed from no one.)