Cherie Reads

The Tragedy Paper

The Tragedy Paper - Elizabeth LaBan First of all, I have to comment on how "clean" this book is. There's no swearing, no sex, no law breaking. Well, no major law breaking, anyway. It was refreshing to read a book that is free from all of that but still feels authentic and honest. I think too many times authors try to write teens with lots of bad language and actions because they are trying to seem more relevant to their audience. In The Tragedy Paper, the story will feel relevant because of great characters, great plot, and great writing.The book is written very well. The way the book was written - in scenes narrated and recorded by a main character - really reminded me of a movie. We open on one of the main characters, Duncan, arriving at The Irving School and looking to find which room he has been assigned to. In his room he finds a "treasure" left by the previous occupant. In this case, CD recordings left by Tim, an albino student involved in some kind of an incident last year. The book goes back and forth between Duncan in present day and Tim last year. The pacing is perfect. The book starts of a little slowly with Duncan arriving at school and then Tim meeting Vanessa, giving the feeling of anticipation and a little bit of apprehension. As the plot moves along we become more comfortable - just as Tim does - but at the same time a little more anxious because we know that we're being lead to some kind of big event or revelation by Duncan's reactions. I really loved the characters. I loved that they were "real" in that they were all flawed in some way. Tim views his entire life and everything he does through the slant of his albinism and has little confidence in himself. Vanessa is the popular pretty girl who has the popular boyfriend but she's the first person to treat Tim like a real person instead of some kind of a freak. Despite her attraction to him she strings him along, too afraid to give up her social status by being with Tim. Duncan is really innocent in everything that happens but has crippling guilt. Each character has good and bad traits.I loved the author's description's of Tim's feelings about Vanessa. She really captures those first feelings of infatuation where every glance and touch have meaning. ...she would make eye contact, or touch my arm gently. It was so subtle, and she was so good at it, like a fairy swooping in or a raindrop finding its way into a small space.... I never knew when it would be, but I started to crave it.I also loved the boarding school setting and all of the details that helped to round it out: the local ingredients used in the cafeteria, the treasure left by the residents of the rooms for next year's seniors to find, the hiding place in Duncan's room, the senior Game, Donut Day and so many other things. They all really made the setting real - and made me wish I went to that boarding school. I read this quickly - in about a day - because I was excited to see what was going to happen and how things would end up. However, I think this book would be a great re-read as there are a lot of scenes and ideas here that I would love to explore in more detail. There are a lot of layers to this book. Duncan's life, Tim's life, the relationship between Tim and Vanessa and her manipulative behavior, the idea of a tragedy paper and how the book itself can be seen as it's own tragedy paper. This book can be read as just a story about a bunch of kids at a boarding school - or it can go much deeper.My favorite read of 2013 - so far. I recommend it.