Genre: Contemporary YA
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 14th, 2017
My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…
Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.
Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.
The two things I knew about this book before I started reading it were that the characters are in their first year of college, and that it’s received a lot of praise. That’s it. And, of course, that it has arguably the prettiest book cover of 2017 (and one that I realised was extremely clever after finishing the book).
We Are Okay is a sad book. This isn’t a contemporary that glazes over things and shows the joys of someone starting their first year of college – it’s one that has such a saddening reality to it that it was kind of hard to read. I’ve never been through anything similar to what the main character has, but the way the complexities of grief were expressed wasn’t lost on me at all. I did struggle to connect to it at first, but the more of the story that was unravelled, the more I began to understand what was going on.
“I must have shut grief out. Found it in books. Cried over fiction instead of the truth. The truth was unconfined, unadorned. There was no poetic language to it, no yellow butterflies, no epic floods. There wasn’t a town trapped underwater or generations of men with the same name destined to make the same mistakes. The truth was vast enough to drown in.”
The story the author tells is heartbreaking, and I’ll admit there were tears when I reached the end (but let’s just ignore how emotional I get about fictional characters). I was so concerned about what was going to be unveiled – what happened last summer? I really wasn’t sure where the plot was going until just before it was revealed.
The only way I can describe the writing style is blunt, but it really worked for this narrative. It showed how our main character was thinking – or rather, how she was desperately trying not to think. There were some wonderful quotes, as well.
We Are Okay is a powerful book about grief, and the complex way it can affect those experiencing it. It’s an incredibly sad book with a bittersweet ending, and I definitely think it’s a good book to read on an Autumn evening.
“It’s a dark place, not knowing.
It’s difficult to surrender to.
But I guess it’s where we live most of the time. I guess it’s where we all live, so maybe it doesn’t have to be so lonely. Maybe I can settle into it, cozy up to it, make a home inside uncertainty.”
- Mentions of drowning and death
- It’s upsetting in a way that makes you think about it for a while afterwards