March 22, 2018

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We Are Okay by Nina LaCour | SLJ Review

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redstarLACOUR, Nina. We Are Okay. 240p. Dutton. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525425892. POP

ya-hs-lacour-weareokayGr 8 Up –Her first semester of college behind her, Marin stays alone in the dorms over break, even with the threat of a snowstorm looming, rather than return to San Francisco, where bad memories lurk. Her best friend Mabel comes to stay with her, and over the next few days, Marin contemplates the events of last spring and summer and deals with her complicated relationship with Mabel. Slowly, readers learn more about Marin’s life: the surfer mother who drowned when Marin was young, the father she never knew, the loving grandfather who raised her but whose concealed secrets kept a wall between them, and the painful events that sent Marin fleeing San Francisco. LaCour’s use of settings is masterly: frigid and desolate upstate New York reflects Marin’s alienation, while vibrant San Francisco evokes moments of joy. Though there’s little action, with most of the writing devoted to Marin’s memories, thoughts, and musings, the author’s nuanced and sensitive depiction of the protagonist’s complex and turbulent inner life makes for a rich narrative. Marin is a beautifully crafted character, and her voice is spot-on, conveying isolation, grief, and, eventually, hope. With hauntingly spare prose, the emphasis on the past, and references to gothic tales such as The Turn of the Screw and Jane Eyre, this is realistic fiction edged with the melancholy tinge of a ghost story. VERDICT A quietly moving, potent novel that will appeal to teens, especially fans of Laurie Halse Anderson and Sara Zarr.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal December 2016 issue.

Mahnaz Dar About Mahnaz Dar

Mahnaz Dar ( is Assistant Managing Editor for Library Journal and School Library Journal and can be found on Twitter @DibblyFresh.