Audiobook Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Posted on 01/07/2015 in Book Review / 4 Comments

Audiobook Review: Belzhar by Meg WolitzerBelzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Published by Dutton Juvenile, Penguin Group on September 30, 2014
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 264
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be  at home in New Jersey with her sweet British  boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching  old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing  him in the library stacks.\r\n\r\nShe certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.\r\n\r\nBut life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.\r\n\r\nUntil a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.\r\n\r\nFrom New York Times bestselling author Meg Wolitzer comes a breathtaking and surprising story about first love, deep sorrow, and the power of acceptance

I was completely intrigued by this concept – it sounded great! Following the death of her boyfriend, Jam ends up at an alternative school for “fragile teens” and is hand-picked to be in a Special Topics in English class. Only five students were chosen, and they have no idea why. They will be studying Sylvia Plath, and are also required to write in special journals that their teacher gives to them. They soon discover that as soon as they begin to write in the journals, they are transported to another world for a short time, a world where the traumatic events in their lives haven’t happened. My intrigue quickly turned to annoyance with Jam. First of all, she hasn’t been able to function for the past year because of the death of a boy that she knew for 41 days. My feelings about this were definitely influenced by the fact that one of my best friends lost her husband recently – a man she was married to for four years. And despite how deeply it hurts, she is still managing to work and isn’t hiding from the world (even though I am sure there are days when she would like to!). Granted, my friend isn’t a highly emotional teenager, so I decided to give Jam the benefit of the doubt. I didn’t know how Reeve had died, and maybe it was something so traumatic that Jam just couldn’t deal with it – something so awful that I wouldn’t blame her a bit for crawling into bed and not coming out.  When the big reveal happened, I did NOT see it coming. And I was mad. Really, really mad, as in this-just-ruined-the-book-for-me mad. I had a few other emotions and thoughts, but I’m going to leave them out so not to hint at any spoilers. Now, on to what I actually DID like about the book – the secondary characters. I liked Sierra and Casey (both members of the Special Topics class), who had legitimate tragedies in their lives, and both are dealing with them in reasonable ways. Sierra’s brother was abducted and she blames herself; Casey is in a wheelchair following an accident with a drunk driver. I also liked Jam’s roomie, DJ, although we don’t see a whole lot of her. Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer is one of those books where the more I think about it, the less I like it. Several of the characters and situations seemed very clichéd, and I just can’t get past not liking or respecting Jam.  And that scene where she tries writing in someone else’s journal? OMG. Just…no! This was the first book that I have read by this author, although The Interestings has been on my TBR list for quite awhile. I still plan to read that one, but I’m going to have to get the bad taste of this one out of my mouth first. It was a great idea, but for me, it fell very, very flat.

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Jessica’s addiction to books began at age 4, going on weekly trips to the library with her mom. After being a young fan of Sweet Valley High and The Baby-Sitters Club, she discovered the thrill of reading a book that made her want to leave the light on and check under the bed. Her all-time favorite author is Stephen King, but she will read just about anything! Jessica never leaves home without her e-reader, and considers it the best gift she ever received. Her other hobbies include running and going to Disney World as often as possible.


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4 responses to “Audiobook Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

  1. Gahhh, I’ve heard mostly negative things about this one, but primarily from people who weren’t aware the “twist” (I guess? Genre twist?) and were mad about it. I’m not sure how I’ll end up feeling about this one. I did get the audio version as well.
    Lauren at Bookmark Lit’s latest thoughts >> Book Jar Review: Pivot Point

    • I hope you like it more than I did! My feelings were definitely influenced by recent events, but I suspect I still would have felt very similarly if I had read it three months ago. It’s a bummer, because it really is a great premise.

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