Knopf Books for Young Readers
January 8, 2013
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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.This was an interesting dual narrative for me. Though, each of the boys, Tim and Duncan pulled me completely into their respective stories and though each story was unique, it was still hard, at times, to keep them separate and straight.
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 love.
The two stories definitely have overlapping themes and events that, though different, do have similarities. It helps Duncan get pulled so quickly into Tim's story and keeps the stories of these boys who didn't even know each other, from being too disparate to work as a novel.
It's usually just the beginning of the switch in narration, as you're moving back into the other character's story and time, that any confusion can occur. After that, you're so fully engrossed in what's happening, that even if you do forget little things, it doesn't really matter much.
That structure of The Tragedy Paper and how LaBan chooses to tell her tale is fantastic. Throughout the novel, as you get to know the characters, those in Tim's story and those in Duncan's, there's this big, likely huge something hanging over everything. It's going to happen in Tim's story and it's happened in Duncan's. Readers just don't know what it is.
The not knowing, the build up we get in Tim's story -- that is build up and at the same time just his story, too -- all while Duncan is stressing over his tragedy paper is a perfect pairing. The more Duncan thinks about tragedy and the paper, the more you think about where Tim's story is ultimately leading. It's a great story arc and I just love the way things work together.