My Review of “The Tragedy Paper” by Elizabeth LaBan
Scheduled for release on January 8, 2013
Those who have come to know my literary leanings as a writer might truly consider this a departure from what I normally read, but I have a healthy respect for YA books since the impetus of Harry Potter, so here goes:
The synopsis of this story immediately reminded me of the movie, “Powder” where this young albino boy gets sent to an orphanage upon the death of the grandparents raising him. Powder falls for the hot girl and is ridiculed by his peers, but he had a secret intrinsic power that emerged whenever he showed strong emotions. Tim Macbeth, one of the protagonists in “The Tragedy Paper” has no such power, but his story was just as heart-wrenching as Powder’s.
Duncan, a senior at the fancy smancy Irvin School, inherits the dorm room of previous resident Tim McBeth, with whom he shares a past. The tradition of leaving something to the next occupant of the dorm room comes in the form of audio CDs made by Tim telling the tragic tale of his matriculation at the Irving School. Transferred in his senior year to the boarding school the previous year, Tim tried to blend in, but fate had other plans. He found himself falling for the most popular girl at Irving School, and miracle of all miracles, she returned his feelings. The cloud looming over them is the certainty that if anyone discovers their secret relationship, least of all her equally popular boyfriend, it will spell doom for them both. Her reputation will be shot, and Tim will be teased even more mercilessly.
Having the story told from alternating viewpoints via Duncan in the present, and Tim from the past is a device that has rarely been used, because it has to be just right to do so, and Ms. Laban executed this very well. And the themed Tragedy Paper for which the novel is named is a great backdrop for the whole story. Every senior is required to write a thesis for a taciturn and downright hard-nosed English teacher. As Duncan uncovers the truth behind Tim and Vanessa’s love story, it unwittingly gives him the subject matter for the best tragedy paper in the anals of Irving School history.
The mystery of Duncan’s connection to Tim kept me reading, although I was more affected by Tim’s story on the whole. It took longer for me to warm up to Duncan because I had a feeling that his involvement in the story from the previous year was going to make me dislike him in some way, but that didn’t happen. So you’ll have to read the book to find out why that is, and how his subsequent actions become somewhat of a redemption.
Readers young and old alike will love this story. I give The Tragedy Paper four out of five stars.
I was provided a copy of this story by Random House’s Alfred A. Knopf BFYR via NetGalley for my objective review.