Review: And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

And We Stay is a haunting tale of life after tragedy and an incredible bond. Rating: 3.5/5

*This is book #2/28 for my 2014 book challenge. You can take a look at the reading challenge here.

TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains graphic content that could be upsetting for some people. Things like suicide, depression, abortion and school shootings are mentioned throughout this book and therefore will be brought up in the following review. Please do not continue reading if these subjects are painful for you.

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.

This inventive story, told in verse and in prose, paints the aftermath of tragedy as a landscape where there is good behind the bad, hope inside the despair, and springtime under the snow.

And We Stay is one of those books that is either going to grab you from the very first page and let you ride it out on a wave of intrigue and happiness, or it’s going to lose you about halfway through and you’re not going to understand what happened. I’m having a really hard time reviewing the book because I don’t feel strongly about it either way. What was interesting was the use of poetry throughout the story, the fact that it wasn’t held in present times, and the fact that we didn’t start out knowing the whole story. That part was probably my favorite. While we knew that Emily’s boyfriend had brought a gun to school, we don’t learn how this came to be until toward the end. The characters had a sense of realness, which is always important. And for the most part, I understood where the characters were coming from.

The main problem here is that the secondary plot made zero sense to me (that being the Emily Dickinson angle). I liked the fact that Emily Beam was able to relate to and draw inspiration from Emily Dickinson at a time of her life when she needed it most, but there was an underlying supernatural factor to the story that just really fell flat. There were more times than not that I just wanted to shake Emily B, and not for good reasons. There were so many parts of the story that just ceased to go anywhere, but not enough so that a sequel would make sense. I feel like the ball was just really dropped. They could have made it a simple, contemporary fiction which could have done really well on its own, or they could have created a sort of supernatural story in which Emily Dickinson calls to another poet named Emily and blah blah blah. Either of those two stories would have been interesting, but when pushed together they left me a bit bothered.

Overall it was well written, and definitely a story that was worth giving a chance.  And We Stay is released on January 28th and you can purchase it wherever books are sold.

Rating: 3 and a half

If you’re interested in reading my GoodReads updates from this book you can do so here. I must say, they’re quite entertaining. It will tell you exactly what I was thinking on certain pages.

Note: I received a free ARC version of this book through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions held within this review are my own thoughts and feelings and do not reflect upon anyone else.

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