Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Elizabeth LaBan, THE TRAGEDY PAPER
A debut YA that has a lot good about it, including real teen tragedy, sincere feeling (particularly the painful unrequited love, owww, those stories always get to me) and some nice writing; but overall it felt somewhat incompletely conceived. Maybe I felt put off because the cover jacket says the story is about "Tim Macbeth"--but the first chapter, and the real-time frame story, is actually about (and focalized through) Duncan, who listens to a collection of CDs that Tim, a senior last year at this boarding school outside NYC, left him, and which narrate events from the previous year. (Jay Ascher handled this narrative strategy better in 13 REASONS WHY.) This is really a "twinned story," with Duncan (now a senior) in a faintly parallel position to Tim's of the previous year. Tim obsesses over Vanessa; Duncan likes Daisy. Tim is an outsider at the school partly because he's albino; Duncan is an outsider just because he's not all that popular. I like "twinned" stories, and these two were different enough and yet like enough that it could have worked. But the set-up is a bit overwrought--the coincidence of Duncan getting Tim's room, Duncan's (strangely) deep anxiety about getting the room, his compulsion to listen to Tim's story, his secrecy about it which leads to (unnecessary and quickly resolved) misunderstandings with Daisy. And I guess I wish Duncan's story felt like the primary one, and that what he learns from Tim resonated more meaningfully, and over more chapters. That said, I think this author has teenage voices down and understands their concerns; I would give a second book by her a try.