October 6, 2015

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Pick of the Day: And We Stay

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And We Stay coverHubbard, Jenny. And We Stay. 240p. Delacorte. Jan. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385740579; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780375989551; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780375899430. LC 2013002236.
Gr 9 Up–Emily Beam is a new student at Amherst School for Girls. There are rumors, of course, about why she has entered the school in January of her junior year, but none of them come close to reality. The truth remains only for Emily to replay over and over, each time revealing a bit more about the circumstances leading up to the day when her boyfriend entered the school library where she was working with her class, lured her into the stacks to talk, and then shot himself in the head. (By the way, If you’re wondering why no one simply Googled Emily’s mysterious past, her story is set in 1995, perhaps for that very reason.) As the teen acclimates to boarding-school life, she keeps her story close to her chest, but reveals herself little by little through the poems she writes and ultimately shares. Emily feels an affinity for her namesake, Emily Dickinson, who lived and wrote just down the street from ASG, and draws on her spirit to pour her emotions onto paper. And We Stay is a little gem of a book. Readers learn as much about Dickinson’s beliefs and poetry as they do about friendship, first love, teen suicide, and even abortion–not an easy balancing act. Yet despite the heavy topics, the book feels sweet and poetic and never gratuitous. Budding poets may particularly appreciate Emily’s story, but there is certainly something for anyone looking for a good read with a strong, believable female lead who is working her hardest to overcome tragedy.–Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, NJ