Review: We Are Okay
This book started out as a potential cover buy and then as more and more people on bookstagram read it and gave it praise, I was eager to not only own such a lovely book, but to go on the same journey as my fellow readers.
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour, Publisher’s Summary:
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.
This was a 3.75 rounded up to 4 star read for me.
So much of the writing was truly beautiful, putting words to feelings that seem to transcend explanation, and describing moments with a kind of beautiful poetry that we all wish was provided for us when we fall in love, when we are the most vulnerable.
But this short book (just 234 pages) was a “slice of life” narrative, which is a style that I’ve notoriously found frustrating. In this case, there is plenty of plot development, teasing out why Marin has fled to the East Coast over the entire course of the book, but every revelation feels so abrupt and so built around these three days in Marin’s dorm room that I ended up frustrated by the limited scope.
Also, you don’t find out that Marin is pronounced like “Marin County” in California until ⅔ of the way into the book, and I have a personal pet-peeve about discovering that I’ve been mentally mispronouncing a character’s name for the majority of the book (or for like, 5 books in the case of the Flavia de Luce series.
I appreciated the descriptions of winter in New York State as I’ve lived in various parts of the state for most of my life and know how the snow can dictate how we spend our days.
It’s hard to speak to what I found the most frustrating about the experience without some mild spoilers, so stop reading here if you want the book to remain and complete mystery beyond the brief publisher’s summary.
Mental health is a big issue in this book and it’s only dealt with in the vaguest ways. I understand that not every person who either experiences mental health difficulties themselves, or who is close to someone who does, is going to want to or be able to spell out everything that is going on. But in the case of fiction, especially fiction aimed at a younger audience, I think that more explicit explanations and unpacking of why a character is experiencing something is a helpful tool for anyone who might be going through something similar.
To reveal a character with a severe mental illness and then to not provide further context and understanding feels dramatic, which serves a certain narrative purpose, but it also feels incomplete in the sense of trying to see the bigger framework of the story and for providing a reader any personal help.
This may just be a case of “not for me” content-wise, as the writing really was beautiful.
Did you read this book? What did you think?
Feel free to share your thoughts- comments are always hidden until you tap on “Leave a Comment” so that no one can accidentally see a spoiler.