Book Review: Belzhar

When the EpicReads facebook page posted this book, I died a little inside. It was so pretty. I needed to read it this second.

So I waited a couple of months until an opportunity came along, and snatched it up.

I don’t regret it, honestly. But I mean that more in the. . .I’m saying that because I don’t regret it, and if it had been a little better I would’ve said “I loved it” instead.

Make sense?

Belzhar

  • Author: Meg Wolitzer
  • Publisher: Dutton
  • Year: 2014
  • Shelved In: Teen fiction
  • Genre vibe: not-supernatural, inspired, almost…indie? In the music sense.
  • At a glance: The Wooden Barn is a boarding school for teens who have been through (or are going through) some stuff. The main character is crazier than you originally think. Nothing is quite as it seems. There are not-magic-but-magic journals.

The Good Stuff

I love the concept of this book. I have since I first heard about it. Jam and her classmates in the hand-picked Special Topics in English class are reading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, and their strange yet endearing teacher, Mrs. Q, says they ought to write journals along with every thing else.

Everyone is confused. There are six kids in this class, what’s up with that? How weird.

Things get weirder, sorry guys.

Once they start writing in the journals, they’re taken to a place (a state of mind? no one’s sure) that they grow to call Belzhar. In there…well, all that stuff they went through? Never happened.

Pretty cool right? Back-woods boarding schools for the troubled where there’s no internet or cell phones allowed and every year this one teacher picks out special kids to read a book. It’s awesome. I really liked the atmosphere that ended up coming out of this book, though it wasn’t one I expected.

I went into it wanting…surreal, slightly paranormal, we’re-not-saying-it’s-magic-but-it’s-magic feelings just oozing out of the pages. What I got was a somewhat drier version of that, but it was still good. It transported you, even if the writing was…sub-par.

There was emotion, there was character development, there were awesome brother-sister relationships even if we never saw them on screen. This book had some great fixings and some awesome features. I enjoyed it.

It’s just that, as a whole, it wasn’t. . .astounding.

Questions, Comments, Concerns?

I’m really kind of sad that this is what my conclusion was, but…

Great concept. Less than great execution.

It needed to be longer, it needed to be told from the POV of someone other than Jam. It needed a little more…fluff. Everything got right to the point. Which, the point was nice, but the point also wasn’t enough.

And then that ending.

Just…

No? Maybe?

We needed another POV that wasn’t just Jam. Then it would’ve been alright.

As it stands, though. Not bad. Not great. Such, such a pretty cover. Don’t regret it.

Overall

  • Rating: 3/5 stars
  • Recommended to: Fans of boarding schools, really cool concepts, people who don’t mind some heavier subjects being told instead of shown.
  • Lasting Impression: The hardwood floor of the Special Topics classroom, a hazelnut candle, and a dusty goat barn.
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