Friday, September 6, 2013

The Tragedy Paper

Tragedy Paper by  Elizabeth Laban

The Irving Boarding School for high school students becomes the backdrop for this tragedy.  

The story is told by Duncan as he moves into his new room as a senior.  It is tradition that the exiting senior will leave a “gift” for the incoming senior. These have been everything from a book to a bottle of (illegal) scotch.  

Duncan’s gift was a series of CDs.   Not the music kind.  The “tell-all story” kind.  

Tim Macbeth is about to explain everything that happened to create a yet-to-be-understood incident last year that everyone knows about, won’t talk about, and nobody understands.

This could have been a good book.  The story was certainly unique.  

It was lacking several YA must-haves, however.  The first of these is the need to care about the characters, and the bottom line is that we just don’t.  Tim and Vanessa never seem real.  Vanessa seems like she cares for Tim, but not much. She doesn’t try to understand his albinism; but he never tries to explain it to her or to anyone else. 

Duncan and Daisy also never quite click.  Their reunion is too easy, too quick, too emotionless.  Patrick is the stereotypical jock/nemesis.  He does the kinds of things you would expect.  Readers never become invested in any of these characters.  

The second issue is medical.  There are YA books that deal with medical issues, so we learn about that issue through a character.  We learn very little about albinism, other than Duncan is alternately ignoring it so he can fit in or obsessing over the fact that Vanessa can’t love him because he is an albino.

YA novels should have an ending that surprises us.  The Ethan Frome (Wharton) -like ending should have made us flinch at least, but it makes us like Tim even less.

There were some nice scenes with Duncan’s teacher.  Some conversations between Daisy and Duncan approach teen issues.  There are some interesting references to recognize:  names aligned with tragedy; allusions to other novels.  It’s a quick read to get you into the school year.  Ages 12 and up.

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