Tag Archives: Grief

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (Review by Alena S. ’24)

Norwegian WoodNorwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Norwegian Wood is my comfort book, and not because reading it leaves me feeling warm or happy—but because I love its transparency. This book displays the ugly sides of human nature, yet it hints at tenderness due to how personal it is. Murakami expertly balances the dark themes of mental illness and suicide with humorous scenes, and the main character Toru makes me laugh quite a bit despite not being a funny character. Although the tale is set in the late 60s, it has a universal appeal that doesn’t feel dated, and ironically, despite the precise descriptions of nature and people, something about the story gives it an otherworldly feel.

Since technology was not as advanced nor widespread at the time, people were more in touch with nature, and Murakami’s description of scenery and rain was incredibly beautiful — one of my favorite aspects of the book. Even though this book was really unorthodox in its structure and plot compared to books I’ve read in the past, I rated it four stars because I feel like the protagonist helped me better understand a side of personal struggles and hardships that I hadn’t previously experienced myself. However, the book does go through a lot of poignant and deep discussion about the connection between life and death, and the open ending felt like a sudden and unrealistic rush that left no room for afterthought compared to the heavy plot. —Review by Alena S. ‘24

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The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (Review by Emma A. ’21)

The Catcher in the RyeThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At this point, I believe this book is infamous. If you have not read it, you have certainly heard about J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. It seems that people either love to love it or love to hate it with no in-between. Before reading the novel, I was sure I would hate it. However, I was gravely wrong as in the book, I found the story of a deeply troubled boy who desperately needed someone to help him.

The Catcher in the Rye is a novel about a 17-year-old boy named Holden Caulfield, who, upon being kicked out of his prep school, goes on a three-day stint in New York City before he has to face his parents and tell them of his expulsion. Holden’s declining mental state is also hinted at throughout the novel and is the source of many of his rash decisions and actions.

In my opinion, many readers immediately cite Holden’s pretension, pessimism, and insufferability as the reason why they vehemently despise the novel. I believe that this is a severe disservice to Salinger’s book. Through looking deeper into Holden’s psyche, one finds a deeply damaged, isolated, and depressed boy. Holden has clearly been profoundly affected by the passing of his brother, and with allusions to possible sexual abuse/harassment, is left to fend for himself without the help he so desperately needs.

What is also interesting is the number of teenagers this book resonates with, especially male-identifying ones. Many see themselves and their perspective on the world represented through Holden’s bleak narrative. I find that this points to a larger problem surrounding how we should set out to remedy the youth’s dreary outlook on life, but that could just be spurred by the onset of changes and hormones so entwined with teenage life.

Overall, The Catcher in the Rye thoroughly surprised me, and I especially recommend it to those, who, like me, think they will despise it, as maybe, just maybe, it will surprise you too. —Review by Emma A. ’21

For those who enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye, Emma also suggests On the Road by Jack Kerouac, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.

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We Were Beautiful by Heather Hepler (review by Hita T. ’23)

We Were BeautifulWe Were Beautiful by Heather Hepler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There had been traces of alcohol in her bloodstream when she was driving. The deer had just stood there in the middle of the road, and she hit it. Her sister did not come out of the crash alive, and one part of Mia’s face was severely scarred.

Ever since that fateful night, Mia Hopkins has been grieving, struggling to figure out what happened. She doesn’t remember what happened, or why it happened, but she only remembers one thing — she had been driving the car when it crashed; a fact she finds extremely hard to forgive herself for. In the midst of this chaos, her broken family sends her to New York to stay with her grandmother, whom she barely knows. She is forced to work a summer job in a cafe, and makes a series of friends, starting with the blue-haired, energetic Fig. Over the summer, Mia finally pieces together what had happened that painful night, eventually realizing that redemption and forgiveness, although seemingly impossible, is not out of reach.

We Were Beautiful by Heather Hepler is a stunning YA novel revolving around grief, self- acceptance, and forgiveness. Hepler intricately and sensitively draws the reader through Mia’s story and perspective, and it is a must read for anyone looking for a heavy, yet thought inducing novel.
-Hita T. ’23

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Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen (review by Anya W. ’20)

SkyscrapingSkyscraping by Cordelia Jensen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mira doesn’t know what she would call a major turning point in her life. Was it the walk when she decided that this year’s yearbook theme would be New York City? Was it the day she found her father in bed with his TA? Was it the day when she found out about her parent’s open marriage? Was it the day she found out that her family had no time left?

At some point though, Mira shut down, and she can’t-isn’t-won’t ever be the same again.

Jensen’s novel written in free prose is a heart wrenching expose on the beautiful, terrible mess we call family. She writes unflinchingly of parents’ mistakes and the intolerance of youth, and manages to still infuse it all with a sense of understanding, and of the importance of acceptance and compromise. I love how dynamic her main character is, and how Jensen still allows the side character be multifaceted, with their own emotions and goals. While some plot points may seem trite, they are at least comparatively minor. This is a good, solid read that won’t leave you feeling like you wasted your time. – Anya W. ’20

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (review by Sara Y. ’21)

The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas showcases the current struggles and protests of African Americans through the perspective of a relatable teenage girl, Starr. While driving back from a party, Starr witnesses the death of her childhood friend Khalil after a Caucasian police officer pulls them over and shoots him. Khalil was unarmed. Starr struggles to use her voice to speak up for Khalil and his family amid the chaos that has become her life, facing problems with her friends and family. The writing pulls the reader into the story with its dynamic plot and complex characters. The Hate U Give, which has gotten a movie and will be in theaters this October, is an eye-opening must-read story about race and social class for teenagers and adults alike. – Sara Y. ’21

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The Other F-Word by Natasha Friend (review by Anya W. ’20)

The Other F-WordThe Other F-Word by Natasha Friend
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well it’s about to get weird cuz I have something to tell u.


R u ready?
I’ve decided to find r sperm donor

When Hollis Darby-Barns gets an email via her dead mother’s account from Milo Robinson-Clark, the half- brother she has met exactly once, she’s most certainly not interested in tracking down their donor. Even using the Donor Progeny Project to see if they can contact any of their other half-siblings is a bit of a stretch . . . so why is she agreeing to all of this?
A unique, heartfelt story about two teens trying to find their place in the world by learning more about their past, and by extension themselves, The Other F-word by Natasha Friend has it all. From family dysfunction to forgiveness, from romance to friendship, Friend handles it all spectacularly. Honestly, my only complaint is that I want more. I want to see the characters interacting and growing and achieving their goals. The open ending left a lot to the imagination and hope. I want more. –Anya W. ‘20

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Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (review by Ms. Stone, STEM teacher)

Everything I Never Told YouEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When high school junior Lydia turns up dead in the lake, every member of her bi-racial Chinese-American family examines the events in their communal life leading up to that moment. Vis-a-vis this fictional family, author Celeste Ng explores racist stereotypes about Chinese Americans. She also sheds light on the devastating effects of parental pressures on student academic performance. – Ms. Stone, teacher

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Girls Like Me by Lola StVil (review by Anya W. ’20

Girls Like MeGirls Like Me by Lola St.Vil
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Girls Like Me is an artistic collection of prose starring Shay, an overweight, quirky, junior still coping with her father’s death with the support of her two best friends, and her budding romance with “Blake,” someone she talks to exclusively online. As their connection deepens, she finds out Blake is actually one of the most popular guys in her school. Because she deems him to be way out of her league, she attempts to conceal her identity. Mishap and mayhem ensue, just as her friends’ lives start getting tougher and tougher, sending Shay–and the reader–on an emotional roller coaster. Along with giving readers a (very) relatable protagonist, all the main characters have some level of depth and uniqueness. Although at least one plot point that could have been quite interesting was dropped (but not badly enough to make,**horror of horrors**, a plot hole!), all in all Lola StVil crafts a realistic story about first love and friendship that is pretty much guaranteed to give every reader major feels.

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (review by Andrew R. ’17)

Wuthering HeightsWuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In “The Glass Essay,” her long and brilliant verse meditation on aging and self-knowledge, the poet Anne Carson invokes the middle Brontë sister again and again as a parallel to her own experience: “I feel I am turning into Emily Brontë, / my lonely life around me like a moor, / my ungainly body stumping over the mud flats with a look of transformation / that dies when I come in the kitchen door.” On its surface, Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë’s only novel, is a gothic romance: it follows the cruel and sinister Heathcliff and his consuming, almost maddening obsession with a childhood lover. But, for Carson and for me, it’s not the romantic tension that sets Wuthering Heights apart from all other eighteenth-century British novels—it’s the fog of gloom that pervades the book’s pages, from the somber, mist-shrouded moors where the story takes place to the towering tragedies that loom large in the protagonists’ destinies (and in Brontë’s own life). Unremitting gloom might not sound like a compelling backdrop to a romantic novel, but in the end it’s precisely that quality that makes Wuthering Heights linger in my mind in a way few other classics do.

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Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go by Laura Rose Wagner (review by Andrew R. ’17)

Hold Tight, Don't Let Go: A Novel of HaitiHold Tight, Don’t Let Go: A Novel of Haiti by Laura Rose Wagner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go begins with a strangely subdued account of the catastrophic earthquake that killed more than 100,000 Haitians on January 12, 2010. Over the course of a few pages, the teenage narrator, Magdalie, witnesses the almost instantaneous leveling of the city of her childhood. But the reader can’t comprehend the magnitude of the tragedy until, months later, Magdalie forces herself to sit down and pour her memories onto the page, even as she admits that, “It doesn’t change anything if I write it down or not … It doesn’t change a thing.” Only here does the reader stop and say, Oh—she is upset, she is scarred, this is a tragedy. It hurts to read the passage: we feel Magdalie’s pain. The rest of the novel follows a similar trajectory. Intense emotion is the most important element of a story that deals with a disaster on this scale, and while that emotion is very often deferred by stumbling plot-lines and flat characters, it’s never forgotten. Sooner or later, the author’s point hits home, and we can’t help but feel empathy for Magdalie and the hundreds of thousands of real-life Haitians in her situation. In that respect, at least, Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go is a success.

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