The Tragedy Paper - YA Review by Elise S

Reader: Elise S
Age: 17
Title: The Tragedy Paper
Author: Elizabeth Laban
Publisher: Arthur A Knopf
Pub Date: 01/08/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: This is one of those books that grabbed me. The author wove together two stories, paralleling beautifully so that as you cheered for one character, your heart broke for the fatal flaws of the other. As each chapter unfolded, I got more and more frustrated by how stupid the characters were being, but in the best kind of "I'm a reader so I know better, and why won't you just do it for your own good" kind of frustrated. The kind of frustrated that means you care for the characters. I loved how Duncan was inspired to take action by hearing Tim's story, and how his healing process was so bound to his history. And the teens were real teens! They snarked appropriately, they did stupid things for each other, they interacted with beautiful awkwardness. I identified with the strong self doubt and evaluation dynamics within the high school that were portrayed so realistically.
Memorable or Forgettable: There were several elements that made this novel stand out from the typical teen tragedy. Firstly, the author really got into her setting. The boarding school's traditions made me laugh, because my high school has similar ones. Their Game compared to my Assassins, the community of students hanging out and being silly. The key was in the details, as always. The natural food obsession, hitting the motto when you walk through the door, the ways to break the rules. I don't always notice when an author doesn't put as much work into their setting, but when it's there it dynamites the book onto another level of engrossment.
     The second creative subplot was the aspect of the tragedy paper. Again, super realistic addition to building the school world. I know my high school's AP US History teacher, Mr. Fitz, is infamous and that experiences are passed down from grade to grade. Every school has these, and the author was keen enough to pick up on that. The way the protagonists were influenced by this class fit. Surprisingly enough, many teens do actually care about school.  I know I connect my class material to my life, so it was cool to see characters doing the same thing. Themes!Cover: This was a beautiful cover. The colors fit together, the shapes of the tree brought the eye to the runner, it was just lovely to look at and definitely made the book more attractive. Also, the way the snow and color palette fit into the plot boosted its awesomeness. I would change the title font, though, because the shadows were difficult to read.
Age Range: 12 through 17
Quality: 5Q Hard to imagine a better book
Popularity:  5P Everyone wants to read it
Additional Comments: Undoubtedly the worst part of the book was also the first thing that I read: the back cover synopsis. Its blandness, and boy-meets-girl blah almost turned me off the book. Please add more of the cute, and the sweet, and the vulnerable that made me fall in love with the characters.
Annotation: Tim: albino, misfit, new kid, hopelessly in love with a snowy popular girl at school. One year later, Duncan: normal, likes a girl named Daisy, returning to senior year after tragedy. Two stories, twisting together past and future in a set of tapes and one life changing night.

tags:  coming of age / romance / high school / albinism / BFYA nominee / ya lit

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