Every year at an exclusive private boarding school in New York state, the graduating students uphold an old tradition - they must swear an oath of secrecy and leave behind a "treasure" for each incoming senior. When Duncan Meade inherits the room and secrets of Tim Macbeth, he uncovers evidence of a clandestine romance, and unravels the truth behind one of the biggest mysteries in the school's history. How far would you go to keep a secret?
Sometimes I come across a book that makes it hard to write a review and to put your finger on. The Tragedy Paper is one of those books for me. It is not your standard Young-Adult fantasy, no swashbuckling action or the likes but it is fascinating and captivating story. Also it is the author's, Elizabeth LaBan, first book. The Tragedy Paper blends literature and a journey of discovering yourself into one classic love-story. Whenever I put the book down to do something else I immediately got the urge to pick it up again and find out what would happen next in the book.
As I mentioned the Tragedy Paper is a love story and a story of self discovery. I must first praise the author on how the story was written and there are actually two story lines, one that you hear being told by Tim Macbeth and the other that you see through Duncan Meade. So what is The Tragedy Paper exactly? It has both a reference on the whole book but also is an assignment that both Tim and Duncan have to make for their English class. A Tragedy Paper describes, as the name implies, a tragedy and can go many ways as you might expect, students have to describe and explain a tragic event but this can of course be interpreted in many ways - is it a literary tragedy and the like? Also there are keywords to use: magnitude, irony, tragic and much more. This paper counts as a thesis for the students semester.
Okay, so that is the meaning of a Tragedy Paper, let's look at the story itself. It is based on a tragic event that happened in Duncan’s junior year at Irving. Now a year has passed and Duncan has been made a senior and as a rule the previous years seniors give up their dorm room and leave a treasure for the follow-up senior. This can range from a bottle of wine, a bag of M&M’s or even a pet. Duncan is assigned Tim's room and by this he gets to know more about Tim’s senior year and what really happened. Duncan finds his treasure spoken on several CD’s that he start listening as soon as he finds out.
Tim is an albino and has by this never really fitted in anywhere, as you hear his narration on the CD’s. You get to form an image about Tim, that he is really attached to his mother and his stepfather and that he is not always that comfortable around new people. This all changes as he meets Vanessa. From this moment all the rules that normally applied to Tim’s life vanish and he does everything to get Vanessa for himself. Yet there is one problem, her boyfriend Patrick. Tim narrates how everything went for him and Vanessa, his high points but also the low points, also his encounter with Patrick and how he still feels outside. One point to be said is that I actually thought that this would turn into a dark story for Tim in the end, there was a mention of blood early on in the snow and events that happened at the end of the year so I actually thought something deadly would happen to Tim… All in all Tim’s story was compelling and heart-breaking and he was shown with such an innocence that I started to feel for him and just wished that everything would turn out for the better between him and Vanessa. That is enough said about Tim, now for Duncan.
Though Duncan's story is less elaborate than Tim’s it is still pretty large, mostly due to the fact that both their stories are connected to each other. Events that happened in Tim’s story affected Duncan in a negative way. Like I mentioned, there was a tragic event at the end of the year that left Duncan scarred. And now he is still reliving those events and he feels sorry for all that happened. Duncan also had a girlfriend, Daisy, but it all turned out differently. But actually due to The Tragedy Paper of Tim that he is listening to he learns more and more about what really happened last year and he has also a more important lesson to be learned. The focus was still more on Tim’s side but with using Duncan as a medium both the stories were more compelling to read about.
The Tragedy Paper shows a great interconnection of two story lines. They are both about finding love but also on how difficult it sometimes can be and how hard when it is all of a sudden over, on how you try to do your best and it may still not be enough and a journey of getting to know yourself. The Tragedy Paper is a great debut and shows an amazing forte for writing this utterly unique and compelling story.
Review by Jasper de Joode
Tori from US
I loved this book! It had joy, sadness, humor, love, and heartbreak. I'd suggest it to anyone with a reading lexile of 850 to 1200! I love this book!!
9.6/10 from 2 reviews