Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Morris Shortlist: hold still

hold still
Nina LaCour
2009; Dutton (Penguin); ISBN 978-0-525-42155-9 (hardcover)

: The suicide of her best friend has sent Caitlin into an abyss. Three months after Ingrid's death, Caitlin is starting her junior year and trying to carry on. But without Ingrid, Caitlin has to find new ways to define herself. Things she loved, like photography, have no allure; her former favorite teacher barely notices her. Oh-so-slowly, Caitlin begins to create a new life. It will take a year of reading Ingrid's journal, making new friends, and building a tree house, before Caitlin will be ready to let Ingrid go.

My Humble Thoughts on Why This Book Was Shortlisted for the Morris Award

#1: A journey that's an emotional punch in the gut.
"I have her journal. I have her photographs. But still. There is so much missing. I crawl under my blankets and curl my body as tight as I can. I shiver and rub my feet together. Try os hard to get the cold out." (page 186)
Caitlin and Ingrid had a close friendship. Caitlin knew that sometimes Ingrid seemed a bit out of it, but she had no idea her friend was on medication and seeting a therapist. So Ingrid's suicide is a great shock to her. Losing her best friend much too soon sends Caitlin on a journey to deal with this loss. But how? Should she see a therapist? Bury herself in photography? Find a replacement for Ingrid? None of those options works for Caitlin. She has to find her own way, through starts and stops. It's not an easy process; Caitlin makes mistakes, pushes people away, takes unnecessary risks. But everything she does feels like the right choice in each dilemma. And each choice makes you feel the same things Caitlin is feeling: joy, sorrow, regret.

#2: A universal teen concern.

Death may be an awfully big adventure, in the words of Peter Pan, but is is a subject that holds a certain lure to teens. It's one of the contradictions of being a teenager: you think you're going to live forever, but you know that you could die any day. Death and dying is such a common topic in teen literature that there was a 2009 Popular Paperbacks list on the subject. Nina LaCour, who in her author's note credits the suicide of a high school classmate as an inspiration, focuses on the repercussions of a suicide. Teen readers are fully exposed to one girl's recovery from her friend's death, getting the chance to safely explore a scary, dangerous subject. But LaCour doesn't patronize or sugar-coat matters. With a true, honest voice, LaCour brings the reader along on Caitlin's journey.

hold still is an accomplished, moving debut. Nina LaCour has written a novel of great power, exploring the nature of friendship and grief. Caitlin is a complex, fully-realized character; it's to LaCour's credit that supporting characters as diverse as Ingrid, Dylan and Taylor are just as well-rounded. With a rich sense of language and a character-driven story, hold still is a great novel, one that will find readers who have read 13 Reasons Why and other similar novels. But Nina LaCour's first novel is able to stand on its own, gracefully meeting the criteria of the Morris Award.

1 comment:

Alyssa Kirk @ Teens Read and Write said...

This sounds like a powerful read. I'm usually into urban fantasy but I also appreciate a good contemporary. Thanks for the review!