When high school senior Paul Wagoner walks into his school library with a stolen gun, he threatens his girlfriend Emily Beam, then takes his own life. In the wake of the tragedy, an angry and guilt-ridden Emily is shipped off to boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she encounters a ghostly presence who shares her name. The spirit of Emily Dickinson and two quirky girls offer helping hands, but it is up to Emily to heal her own damaged self.
This inventive story, told in verse and in prose, paints the aftermath of tragedy as a landscape where there is good behind the bad, hope inside the despair, and springtime under the snow.
Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an advance reader copy in exchange of an honest review.
Actually, I would give it 3.5 stars if that was possible.
I wanted to read And We Stay because the cover was gorgeous. Honestly, this is one of the prettiest covers I have ever seen! It's simple, it's not overly ornamented (that's a mistake I see A LOT, particularly, in YA and Fantasy books) and it fits the story perfectly.
This is Literary Fiction. It doesn't have much of a plot and the story is entirely character driven with a beautiful, metaphoric prose which was truly a delight. Then, it has the poems in the end of every chapter, each one of them amazingly written.
I like boarding school's novels. I was a bit afraid of it becoming just a cliché kind of novel but, well, it sure wasn't.
Don't expect to find an intriguing plot with lots of action and adventure because, as I said in the beginning, this is a book about a character, it's not plot driven and little happens. But you can certainly expect the matching of a lyrical, flowery, well constructed prose with beautiful, meaningful yet simple poems.
The pace is slow but what gets in my nerves is the fact that I don't really feel connected to Emily, at first. The POV doesn't allow me to do so. So, at times, I felt like I didn't know much about the protagonist and that maybe she was a "flat" character. It wasn't until the last chapters that I began to understand a little more about her.
Another thing that I didn't like was that the narrator kept referring to Emily as Emily Beam during the entire book...it was annoying and weird.
The relationship between Emily and Paul was simple and felt real to me (sometimes adult authors tend to complicate teenage love way more than it is), but Paul, as well as K.T., wasn't a full fleshed out character and it seems to me that I finished the book not knowing much about him.
The constant comparisons between Beam and Dickinson were a bit exaggerated like they were forcing the connection.
I end up not knowing why Paul killed himself either, but the final made me cry and it had something lovely about it. In fact, the last chapters were the best; the more I read, the more compelled about the book I felt and I was able to create empathy towards Emily in the end.
It has its flaws but I really enjoyed it and my general appreciation about this novel is pretty positive. I strongly hope I can find a Portuguese version, but even if the book isn't translated to my language, I plan to buy it.
And We Stay is not for the reader who seeks for action but I surely recommend it to everyone who finds interest in reading beautiful narrative. If you prefer internal conflicts over external conflicts, then go for it.
3 out of 5 stars