The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban
Review by Lauren
copy sent for review, but all opinions are my own
Official Summary: It follows the story of Tim Macbeth, a seventeen-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is “Enter here to be and find a friend.” A friend is the last thing Tim expects or wants—he just hopes to get through his senior year unnoticed. Yet, despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “It” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim's surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, but she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone ever finds out. Tim and Vanessa begin a clandestine romance, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.
Jumping between viewpoints of the love-struck Tim and Duncan, a current senior about to uncover the truth of Tim and Vanessa, The Tragedy Paper is a compelling tale of forbidden love and the lengths people will go to keep their secrets.
Review: While I did enjoy The Tragedy Paper, I feel like this book has a case of "the summary kind of misleads you" and I know those often annoy people...so hopefully this will clear some things up.
1. I wouldn't really say Tim and Vanessa have a full-on romance, but they do keep what they have a secret. This doesn't really bother me, but if you're looking for a bigger romance...you might not find it here. However, the other point of view, Duncan, does have a relationship with a girl named Daisy. He gets the confidence to really pursue Daisy from Tim.
2. There is a Tragedy Paper that all seniors have to write, but the teacher, Mr. Simon, isn't what I'd call the most "least forgiving teacher." He's tough, yes, and I'm sure if I had him as a teacher, I'd be a bit scared of him. But he does care about his students and you can see how he helps them out throughout the book.
Okay, so that's not too bad, right? Still interested?
Well, The Tragedy Paper is a book about Tim (for the most part) who is an albino, finishing up his senior year at a boarding school. He's new and he knows what it's like not to fit in, so he really just wants to survive the last of his high school career. He does more than survive though. He actually starts to become part of something, though he never really lets go of his uncertainty. I can't say I blame him. Some of the people who pay attention to him aren't the best and I'd be worried about them too...never really sure if they were up to something to embarrass you or not.
Regardless, Tim does try and fit in as best he can. The greatest happiness he has at Irving, though, is Vanessa. I liked that he didn't meet Vanessa at school, but beforehand, since this allows them a chance to know each other away from other pressures (particulary Patrick, Vanessa's boyfriend).
The other point of view in this book is Duncan (currently in his senior year) and while the main story is Tim's, I guess you could say the main point of view is Ducan's. His chapters are third person and Tim's are in first person's...this is because Duncan is listening to c.d.'s that Tim recorded, explaining his ill-fated senior year (Duncan's junior year). These c.d.'s have been sent to Duncan because in the end, he played a role in Tim's story and Tim feels he deserves to know the whole truth of what led to that moment.
If you've read Thirteen Reasons Why, then this means of telling a story will be familiar to you. I think it worked in The Tragedy Paper, though I won't say it's as good as Thirteen Reasons Why. It's a different type of story, though.
Finally, one thing I loved is how the beginning and end of the book came full circle. It immediately made me think of The Outsiders (a favorite book of mine). After finishing the book, I read the author's acknowledgments and she actually thanks S.E. Hinton for writing The Outsiders and That Was Then, This is Now. Pretty cool, if you ask me!