I received this book for free from Simon and Schuster UK in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Published by Simon and Schuster UK on 1st October 2014
Genres: contemporary, psychological
Source: Simon and Schuster UK
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If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing him in the library stacks.
She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.
But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.
Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.
From New York Times bestselling author Meg Wolitzer comes a breathtaking and surprising story about first love, deep sorrow, and the power of acceptance.
I was reluctant to read Belzhar at first because I’d read very mixed reviews. However, I decided to finally read it on a whim, and I’m very glad I did!
Jam Gallahue has been sent to a school far away from her family in the hope to recover from a devastating disaster: her boyfriend dying. The Wooden Barn is a school for people just like her, so when she’s put into a special and exclusive English class called Special Topics, she doesn’t think much of it. It’s only when the class are given a special journal writing assignment that things start to change dramatically for her and her classmates.
At first glance, Belzhar is a contemporary novel dealing with the effects of grief and loss. It then takes a psychological turn that I loved because it added a whole new element to the book. I’m quite glad I didn’t pay too much attention to the synopsis!
I loved the closeness of the Special Topics group because it demonstrated that it’s possible to have a book that features strong friendships. Each character developed at a constant rate, each one seeming as familiar as the protagonist, Jam.
Jam herself was a good character, but I wouldn’t necessarily want to read about her further. I liked her for the duration of the novel, but I doubt that she’ll be memorable enough to think about again in the future. Her story has ended satisfactorily and so I’m content with leaving her as we left her at the ending.
A note for all you future readers of Belzhar: The title may not make sense right now, but it will do once you get deeper into the novel. I love the feeling of when a book title finally falls into place – it’s very magical!
I feel as if I should fully explain why I chose to rate Belzhar five stars because it definitely wasn’t a perfect book. Whilst Belzhar did exceed my expectations, it was the literary techniques used and shock ending that sealed the five star fate. I love books that break out of the regular mould, and Belzhar definitely did that.
It also deals with mental health in an approachable and understanding way; it was very easy to relate to.
I enjoyed Belzhar, especially its originality and ability to amaze. I would recommend it to people looking for something a bit different to read!