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A Pleasant Surprise
, September 29, 2010
"Hold Still" by Nina LaCour instantly became my favorite book as soon as I read it. It was the first book that I read in a very long time that made me not want to stop to the point where I would literally stay up all night just to finish it. And the funniest thing is that I only got this book by accident. "Hold Still" is considered to be a "young adult fiction" book and normally I would not be caught reading anything with that categorization, much less proclaiming it my new favorite book. Through a bit of luck, however, this book was misplaced at my local library and thus I found it under the regular new fiction as opposed to the new young adult fiction. After I had picked it up, read a little bit about it and decided I wanted to actually read the book, it was too late for me to do anything about the fact that it was what I considered to be "out of my age range" (too young for me).
The story itself centers around a young girl named Caitlin who is returning to school the summer after her closest friend, Ingrid, committed suicide. Somewhat of an older theme, I know, but I don't classify these books. The interaction with other people, the whispers in the hall and just the overall blatant change that comes with such a loss and with such a feeling of having this void in your life is a big factor in this book. In a way, it is almost like what they call the phantom limb syndrome.
The other big theme of this book, in my opinion, is moving on. Though this book ends on a happy note (I believe), it does take you through a lot of struggle, grief, remorse, anger, hatred, love and just the full spectrum of emotions. Often times when people kill themselves there is no clear reason or explanation, even when a note is left behind. Sometimes, maybe the person who takes their own life doesn't even know why they did it exactly. If you could bring them back to life and ask them just what was so awful that they had to die, I think most of them would not be able to give you a straight answer. In that way, this book is about moving on from that which we cannot control, cannot blame ourselves for and most importantly cannot change once it has already happened. That is an important thing to learn in life to deal with no matter who you are or what your situation may be.
Another underlying theme, which I find to be very important, in this book is art. Caitlin uses photography as a way to kind of put the past behind her and move on as much as she can at the time. And sometimes that's all you can do--move on little by little at a time. Much like the painter paints, the writer writes and the musician sings, photography is just another form of expressing our emotions and I truly do believe everyone needs some sort of art in their life as an outlet.
Nina LaCour has a very straight forward every woman style of writing. It makes you feel like you're being told a story by your best friend late at night when you're up way past your bedtime and you don't want your parents to catch you on the phone. Kurt Vonnegut once wrote that the reason why it was harder to read a book than, say, watch a movie is because when you're not only having to focus on the words and comprehend them, but you also have to form the ideas and pictures in your own mind without the help of actors or really any focal points. I found myself thinking of that a lot after I read this book because LaCour's words just paint such a simple picture. While they are written in a way people can easily understand, they also do paint that picture for you with ease. You almost do feel like you're watching a movie more than reading as the story unfolds. (Though Mia Nolting provides some excellent drawings in this book as well)
I honestly read this book for the first time when I was going through what I like to refer to as the best worst time of my life. Several weeks after I read this book I was admitted to a mental hospital after an attempted suicide. Obviously, that isn't the good part. The good part is that I didn't die and I got help and am on the road to recovery. However, I cannot help but wonder when I looked back if this book influenced me at all negatively in my time when I was at my darkest. And honestly, I have to say that while, yes, it did influence me, it was never in a bad way. If you or someone you know lost someone to suicide, then you can probably find something in this book from Caitlin's point of view. But if you've ever thought about killing yourself of suffer from depression than you can probably relate to Ingrid, but hopefully see enough of the good in Caitlin that you don't want to end up like Ingrid did. This book really left me torn apart, honestly, because I saw myself playing the role of both the two main characters. On one hand, I was headed down the road where I was going to end up like Ingrid. On the other hand, I didn't fully want that to happen and I wanted to be more like Caitlin and just find a way to cope. So if anything this book definitely impacted me in a positive way and may have partially helped save my life. Not necessarily because I thought of how everyone I left behind would be like Caitlin and that upset me or made me want to change or just had an impact on me knowing people would eventually, little by little, move on every day. I can't exactly pinpoint that cross between the two characters and what made me feel the way I still do, but that's the beauty of this book. And if nothing else, I mean, it really is only about the act of a suicide as much as "For Whom The Bell Tolls" is about a war.