5/5 – Reading is a deeply personal activity. It’s an author making a connection with the reader, or at least attempting to. As a result, books can be deeply personal to each reader. A book that someone adored can be a book someone hated. We all come to a story with our own individual stories. Sometimes they click and sometimes they don’t. The Book Thief, The Song of Achilles, A Monster Calls, these are all books that brought out a physical and emotional reaction in me. That in itself is rare for me. However, I didn’t click with those books like I did with We Are Okay and Marin, the main character. This book made me cry, this book made my body ache, but I saw myself in Marin’s thoughts, in her feelings, in her doubts, in her hesitations.
In On Writing, Stephen King is talking about writing whatever you want. You can write whatever you want, the possibilities are endless, as long as you get to the truth of what you are writing about. Nina LaCour got to the truth of what she was writing which was grief, loneliness, self-doubt, and betrayal. In the acknowledgments at the end of the book, she talks about the aftermath of her grandfather’s death and how it devastated her. Then her wife suggested she write about it and it turned into We Are Okay. Her pain is conveyed through Marin.
This is a book about relationships. Marin’s relationship with her grandfather is distant but she fails to see that. Marin’s relationship with Mabel who is not only her best friend but the first girl she fell in love with. Marin’s relationship with herself and how she keeps everything to herself because she’s afraid of the thoughts that will rush out if she tells the truth. She runs away from anyone who has ever loved her. It’s so much easier to block out the world than to let people in. Being alone is easy. Then there is the idea of family. Even though she doesn’t have any more family, she refuses to accept offers of familial connection. Sometimes those people are more family than your real family, but she doesn’t realize it until they are there for her when she needs it.
The writing in this book is stunning. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to write such beautiful lines or connect a character’s story to a work of literature or a painting. Everything means something in We Are Okay. Every choice Nina LaCour makes is intentional. I think this book is strengthened by the fact that it’s told in the first person.
First person perspective doesn’t always work. It can leave a bad taste in my mouth with all of the shitty dystopian YA that used it constantly. But when it’s done well, it allows you to lose yourself in the character’s mind. In my opinion, this book wouldn’t have been as strong in the third person.
The book goes back and forth between the months leading up to Marin’s grandfather’s death and her subsequently running to New York where she is to start college. In the present day, her best friend Mabel is coming to visit. She longs to see her friend again and is anticipating the moment she leaves because then she will be alone again. As the story moves forward, we are getting closer and closer to the reason Marin ran away from California until it’s finally revealed late in the book. My attention was glued to the book because I wanted to know what went wrong in order to have Marin shut out her best friend.
I know that people aren’t going to feel as connected to this book as I did, so take my review with a grain of salt. I do think objectively, it’s a great book. It has a good rating. For me, it was something more than just a great book. It was a perfect book. I don’t know if another book will make me feel this way again anytime soon. It clicked perfectly with my personal story.