Her narrator has a nervous breakdown while a college student and attempts suicide, as Plath had. The story is so viscerally real and imaginable that I, then a teenager, was immersed. Plath, who recovered from her breakdown but committed suicide at age 30, left behind one powerful novel, many brilliant poems, a good deal of short fiction and voluminous journals. But it was in The Bell Jar that she used the detailed landscape of a novel to look bravely at her illness, and she compelled readers to look with her. Flash-forward several decades.
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By Rachel Simon Sep. Says Wolitzer firmly, "You have to look out for one another. Teens and adults alike will lap it up, especially those all too familiar with the main issue plaguing Jam, the narrator: her fierce, sweeping first love went horribly wrong in the blink of an eye. Belzhar takes its characters on a totally unique journey, one that blurs the line between fantasy and reality. To say more would be spoiling one of the most original twists in recent YA, but know that it involves school-prescribed journals, a wise teacher, and the words of Sylvia Plath.
Will that boy love me? So [Belzhar] just seems like a more extreme version of the possible. We try to trick ourselves and tell ourselves things that are more tolerable. And [grief] seems worth endlessly looking at. In that book, the main theme was "the quiet envy you feel for people you love," says Wolitzer, but in Belzhar, the focus is on "seeing our friends as an extension of family, or even as our real family. The teacher is strange and eccentric in all the best Ms.
Q, rarely discusses anything other than the Plath poetry her students are reading. And it was a relief to write about, because so much of our lives are graded and reviewed. So the idea that they would be free of that — I think we all yearn for that a little bit. But, in fact, people bleed into each other.
Looking for Alaska, in particular, was a major find, the first book that convinced her of the power of teenage lit. It gave me a window into my kid.
Book Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
From New York Times bestselling author Meg Wolitzer comes a breathtaking and surprising story about first love, deep sorrow, and the power of acceptance. Very odd. Jam Gallahue had just experienced loss in the form of her British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. Belzhar is the name that Jam and her classmates give the place they are all whisked away to when they write in their special red journals. One by one they come to realise the power of the journals and come together to share their experiences and their pasts with each other. But oh boy are we wrong. Belzhar brings Jam and her friends back to a time before their loss, but as the pages diminishes in the red journal, they are all faced with the possibility of moving on with their lives.