More interesting than THE INTERESTINGS

29 Nov

I hated Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, so I was skeptical when I heard she had written a YA novel.

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Mostly, I hated The Interestings because I didn’t like any of the characters.  Fortunately, Belzhar was full of characters I liked and a premise that I found interesting. One might say that the theme is “Art saves Lives”.

Jam Gallahue goes to a therapeutic boarding school in Vermont following a tragic event from which she has not recovered. She is one of 5 students selected for an exclusive English class called “Special Topics in English”which is taught by veteran instructor Mrs. Quenell when she has the perfect set of students. Mrs. Quenell chooses to focus solely on the work of Sylvia Plath with Jam’s small class and gives each student a journal to write in weekly. It turns out that this is no ordinary journal and, as they write, each of the five students has an opportunity to travel to Belzhar, named in honor of Plath’s novel, where they can go back to a time and place where they were happier.

Magical realism might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it works here. And, when you read the ending, you can see why it is so important to the story about the fragile teens at the school. Wolitzer treats teen mental health issues seriously and sensitively.

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