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Customer Review

31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rare in One Respect, December 27, 2012
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This review is from: The Tragedy Paper (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
THE TRAGEDY PAPER's focus is a love triangle between 17-year-olds at a boarding school. What makes it a rarity in the YA field is how "clean" it is. Anyone reading YA these days knows that, as a genre, young adult literature has grown up and skewed strongly toward more adult themes, language, and issues. Not so with Elizabeth Laban's debut novel. The book is wall to wall free of profanity or R-rated acts of any sort. It's just a straight-out, old-fashioned love story -- with a few quirks.

Quirk #1: It starts and circles back like S.E. Hinton's THE OUTSIDERS for no other reason than (according to the afterword) Hinton's book -- another "clean" read, thanks to the era it was written -- is one of Laban's favorites.

Quirk #2: The protagonist is an albino. This reminded me of Palascio's WONDER, in a way. Obviously the characters here are much older, but still, Tim Macbeth (I kid you not) stands out like a white light that draws stares from all around. He is another case of a "marked man" in the lead, against all odds.

Quirk #3: THE TRAGEDY PAPER is a book within a book. It's mostly about Tim's love for a girl named Vanessa, who happens to be attached to that predictable YA staple, the most handsome and athletic popular jock in the school (here named Patrick). But Tim's entire narrative is told, THIRTEEN REASONS WHY-like, via tape (CDs in this case). The listener? A new senior named Duncan (again, I kid you not), a year on the heels of the triangular leads, who listens to the recordings because he happens to get Tim's room from the fateful year before. Neatly enough, he, like Tim, has a romantic interest he is pursuing.

Quirk #4: The book seems to be contemporary, yet reflects little of its time in history and how modern teens' lifestyles are today. At one point, up early in the morning, one character uses the line "Time to make the doughnuts" as a joke. What 17-year-old would understand THAT allusion, I wondered. The Dunkin Donuts commercial came out in the 80s. More strangely still, I think cell phones are mentioned once, and one big event in the novel -- a secret "outing" planned by Patrick -- is advertised via handwritten posters over a series of days. This jars in an almost anachronistic way. What kids that age would bother with such an old-school, labor-intensive, and clearly dangerous (if you don't want to be discovered) method of announcing a party? Does the word "texting" mean nothing to this book?

Quirk #5: The Tragedy Paper itself, an assignment from Irving School's English teacher Mr. Simon, plays a minor role throughout. You keep expecting it to somehow play a larger role, but no. The only connection is that, by definition, both book and assignment are tragedies. As for DEAD POETS SOCIETY-like scenes in the classroom, few and far between.

Overall, the book scored high marks for its storyline and flowing style. Is it in the upper tier of boarding school books? Hardly. And it loses steam toward the end, where it meets an almost anti-climactic end. Still, the narrative pulls you along with its steady current, and you wonder as much as Duncan does how all of Tim and Vanessa's troubles will pull together. In the end, and ironically enough, I felt as if the book needed a more tragic end than it got. Weird, huh? Nevertheless, I admired Laban for what she accomplished here and think many students, from middle school on up, will agree.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 7, 2013 9:47:56 PM PST
Miss Print says:
Great review. In regards to Quirk 4: I'm in my twenties and would not have understood the doughnut reference without your explanation.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 13, 2013 8:11:16 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jul 19, 2013 8:07:55 PM PDT
Yesterdaisy says:
Oddly enough, I'm 25 and I DO get the doughnut reference...maybe because I still have my plastic Dunkin Donut toys, and remember the packages they came in. The back had a great photo of the baker with rows of awesome-lookin doughnuts behind him, plus that line from the ad. My mom let me know that that was its origin, and I've watched it and loved it. xD

Posted on Jul 17, 2013 11:41:11 PM PDT
Thanks for the review. I am glad to know that this is NOT an R rated book for teens. Happy to have a teen centered book without all the adult content. I can get this for my early teen with out an ulcer :)
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