Released: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: eGalley from publisher
Summary from Goodreads:
When high school senior Paul Wagoner walks into his school library with a stolen gun, he threatens his girlfriend Emily Beam, then takes his own life. In the wake of the tragedy, an angry and guilt-ridden Emily is shipped off to boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she encounters a ghostly presence who shares her name. The spirit of Emily Dickinson and two quirky girls offer helping hands, but it is up to Emily to heal her own damaged self.
The first thing I want to say about this book is that it’s not for everyone. I’ve seen a number of DNFs, and they’re all for reasons I completely understand. The writing style is different. Very different. So if you read a couple of pages and aren’t feeling it, I would suggest not trying to force it. Unlike some others, I absolutely adored this book.
And We Stay is written in third person present and has a mix of prose and poetry. I’ve never read a book in this tense before, but strangely enough, I loved it. I know a lot of people said that because of the tense they had a difficult time connecting with Emily, the main character, but I didn’t have that problem at all. While it does create some distance, the author writes well enough that we’re still able to get into Emily’s head and feel what she feels. Also, I LOVE poetry. Like, to me reading poetry is like breathing in really rich air (I’m serious), so I totally loved the verse aspect of this book, and I think it helps you get to know Emily a bit more intimately, at least on an emotional level. I found the writing to be magical and lyrical. You know when you read something that really speaks to you? That makes you feel alive? I don’t know if this happens to any of you, but there are certain things that make me feel as if I can feel my life pumping through my veins (Charles Bukowski’s poetry does this to me, as does Thoreau’s writings); that’s what And We Stay was for me.
Let’s face it, Emily has gone through A LOT. Like, holy shit I feel terrible for this girl. And nobody’s really there for her. I mean, her parents are there, they had her see a counsellor, etc etc, but nobody’s really there. She doesn’t know how to open up, I don’t think, which means that the people trying to help her can’t do so properly. So while away at boarding school, Emily finds solace in poetry. Both in the poems written by Emily Dickinson and the poems she writes herself. She gets a bit obsessed with Emily Dickinson, as the school is right near where Emily D herself grew up, but I think it’s understandable. Emily Dickinson “understands” her in a way that nobody else does. And even if it might be a bit strange, her foray into the world of poetry helps her heal, or at least begin to do so. Also, there’s an awesome friendship in this book that made me melt inside.
This is not a happy novel by any means. It’s very dark and heavy, but there’s a sense of hope at the end. It leaves the reader feeling as if Emily will face brighter days, amongst all the sad, that’s all one needs to feel satisfied. I know I certainly was. I don’t want to go too far into detail because I don’t want to ruin anything, so I’ll leave it at that. But if you have an affinity for poetry and darker contemporary, I would say give And We Stay a try.