Wednesday 15 October 2014

Belzhar - Meg Wolitzer

Title: Belzhar
Author: Meg Wolitzer
Publication Date: October 1st, 2014
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Jam Gallahue is sent to a therapeutic boarding school after suffering from a traumatic event during high school. She's closed off and feeling empty, but slowly opens up when placed in the Special Topics in English class with another 5 students. 

They're assigned journals to write in every week, but what they discover from this mundane exercise pushes life right back into them. 


On the surface, I don't think Belzhar was an amazing read. It didn't strike me as impactful or memorable compared to The Bell Jar, which was something I was worried about when I picked this up. I know it's not a modern adaptation or promising to be something like Sylvia Plath's amazing work, but by including elements of it in the novel, it's pretty hard not to compare. I'm not going to lie, I had really high expectations. I wasn't disappointed, but it wasn't spectacular. 

What I liked most about Belzhar was more the emotional aspect of it, and how it delivered it's point. At first I was confused because of how dry the narrative sounded, but as the story progressed I could see more of a point being formed. I like that it pushes the idea of how everyone has issues to deal with, and that they're all important in their own way. It explores the topic of addressing your problems and finding the best way to deal with it. I know a lot of people have issues in how the characters are transported to the "other" world as a way of facing their problems, but if you look at it in a different perspective, I think - for the protagonist, at least - the way to let go of the past, and all the grief and anger that was contained in it.

Speaking of the characters, I wasn't particularly fond with any one of them. Their stories were touching and sad, but I don't think they had much depth. This applies to Jam as well, who I pretended was older than her actual age, because I couldn't really believe her situation as being realistic. I could relate with their feelings of being stuck in a moment and not being able to move past it, but I don't really remember every one of their situations. I liked that as a group they gradually developed a positive bond, and found the help they needed, but the romantic relationships just sprung out of nowhere and was very predictable. I knew from the moment the two characters looked at each other it was going to happen, even if there was no progression to it. Sigh.

The ending was a little rushed, packing everything together and trying to wrap it up neatly. It was neat, but just a bit overwhelming. I overlooked that though because of the plot twist that did add a spark to the plot whilst reading and I did find myself surprised.

I think if you're looking for something that is a little less heavy than The Bell Jar, but with that similar concept of exploring the emotions of depression and loneliness than definitely read it. I took the overall message as something I really liked and so that's why I enjoyed that bit more. I'm just not sure I articulated that part very well.

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