Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Young Adult, Magical Realism
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published September 30th, 2014 by Dutton Books for Young Readers
The Wooden Barn is a boarding school for “troubled” teens. It’s meant to be a place of healing. Jam Gallahue finds herself here against her will after the death of her boyfriend Reeve. Jam ends up in a selective class called Special topics in English, and, in this class, Jam and five other students discuss the work of Sylvia Plath. Their teacher gives them each a journal in which to document their personal experiences throughout the semester. One night, Jam pulls out the journal and begins to write. Suddenly, she can feel Reeve’s arms around her. She turns, and, there he is. Reeve. Alive! But she’s no longer in her room at the Wooden Barn. She’s… somewhere else. Somewhere the journal has brought her.
I was immediately drawn into this story of first love and deep loss. Jam is a quirky and enigmatic character, with secrets to hide. She meets some other interesting people in her class and they become close. Throughout the novel, and our experience in Belzhar, we learn more about each character and their past. In the end, there is a realization about Belzhar that I was a little unsure of. I didn’t think it was a bad realization, but it left be feeling unsure of how to respond to Jam’s character. I didn’t feel that Wolitzer made any sort of stance about it. There was no reaction. This left me a little confused.
So, a solid book that seamlessly weaves in a little magical realism. However, the way Wolitzer handled the ending left a little to be desired.