Published by Dutton Juvenile, Penguin Group on September 30, 2014
Genres: Young Adult
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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.