Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Vouched Book: "The Tragedy Paper" by Elizabeth LaBan

The Tragedy Paper
Elizabeth LaBan
Publication: January 8th, 2013, Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction

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Tim Macbeth is a 17-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is, “Enter here to be and find a friend.” Tim does not expect to find a friend; all he really wants to do is escape his senior year unnoticed. Despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “it” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim’s surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, and she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone finds out. Tim and Vanessa enter into a clandestine relationship, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.

The story unfolds from two alternating viewpoints: Tim, the tragic, love-struck figure, and Duncan, a current senior, who uncovers the truth behind Tim and Vanessa’s story and will consequently produce the greatest Tragedy Paper in Irving’s history.

I immediately picked up the ARC of this because of the promising summary and, quite honestly, because I needed a break from YA novels with the typically hot or mysterious male lead. I'm also a sucker for tragedies, and boy, did Elizabeth Laban deliver.

She brilliantly explored the definition of a tragedy in the literary context, both with the story's concept and through her characters, who are assigned by their senior English teacher to write a tragedy paper. The main character is aptly named after one of Shakespeare's most tragic characters.

Tim Macbeth, a 17-year-old albino, bleeds from The Tragedy Paper's pages, though he's not the narrator in the typical sense. He tells his story to Duncan, a fellow student, through CDs he recorded and left behind. As Duncan listens to them, I could hear, feel, imagine Tim with each recording and could envision every event he described. Along with Tim's retelling, Duncan's present life and past are weaved throughout the book, contrasting the differences and similarities between them, their choices, their lives at the same school, in the same room.

Then there's the turning point, the tragic event that had joined them together and scares not just Duncan to confront but also the reader; like Duncan, we know it's coming. But while I wanted to know what happened, a part of me really didn't, too.

With suspense and realism, Laban breathes life into her wonderfully young cast of characters, each struggling with the trials of adolescence and growing up and with his or her own definition of a tragedy. When Laban swings The Tragedy Paper full circle, she leaves the reader to decide: Is Tim's story a tragedy or an unfortunate accident, a tragic happenstance? Does a fatal flaw, with wide-reaching magnitude, make a tragedy? Or is the most tragic of all the young having regrets? I was left thinking about it and the book for days after I finished.

A stunning, moving debut. I highly recommend it to contemporary YA lovers.

eARC provided by Random House Children's Books,
courtesy of Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

The Tragedy Paper releases today! Buy it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.



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