Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review: Hold Still

Hold StillHold Still
Author: Nina LaCour
Published: September 25, 2009
Paperback, 231 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

I am a girl ready to explode into nothing.

That night Ingrid told Caitlin, I'll go where you go. But by dawn, Ingrid was dead and Caitlin was alone. Suddenly Caitlin has to deal with a completely unfamiliar life - a life without the art, the laughter, the music, and the joy she shared with her best friend. When she finds the journal Ingrid left behind, Caitlin gets a chance to learn about another side of her friend; and the journal becomes her guide as she deals with forging new friendships, finding a first love, and learning to live without the one person who knew her best. 

Every so often I come across an author that changes everything I thought I knew about YA books. Nina LaCour struck me hard with The Disenchantments, a novel so different from what I usually read but grabbed hold of me as soon as I opened it. I thought it was a one of a kind thing, and didn't bother to pick up the book she had released before it and continued on with life. Then she released Everything Leads to You and I fell in love all over again for a completely different reason. Neither book had a similar theme, and every character was so different from the rest. So I knew I found something good and just had to find her first book. I like the thrill of finding a book in a store rather than just buying it online so when I finally tracked in down in a Coles in Brantford, I bought it and read it right away. This book is nothing like her others except that it's just as well written and the story pulls you in and doesn't let go.

Caitlin is going through something I hope to never have to face. Her best friend Ingrid has just committed suicide, leaving Caitlin alone to face the rest of high school. They promised each other they'd leave, but Ingrid broke the promise. Nothing is the same without Ingrid: the teachers don't notice Caitlin anymore and the looks she gets in the hall burn into her memory. Ingrid was the perfect one, the pretty one, the creative one. Caitlin wonders if everyone wishes she was in Ingrid's place. Caitlin begins a journey when she discovers a journal Ingrid left for her and it takes her into a new world, a world without Ingrid but one that is just as good. With the help of Ingrid's words, Caitlin learns to let go, use photography as her output and finds love for the first time. This is an incredible journey of a girl starting over after losing the one girl who meant the most to her. The tone is not light and at times I found it hard to read as I've almost lost people to suicide, but Caitlin acceptance and forgiveness is heart breaking and touching and LaCour has captured these emotions wonderfully.

The photography plays just as much a part as every character. Caitlin first uses it for attention, trying to get her teacher, Ms. Delani, to notice her without Ingrid. This journey plays in with Caitlin befriending Taylor and feeling things she thought she'd never feel after Ingrid's death. Their relationship is beautiful and even though Caitlin tries to push him away, he constantly waits for her, knowing she'll need him when she falls. There were particular moments that penetrated through my skin as the perfect metaphors for grief. Caitlin builds a treehouse, a project she puts all her time into and doesn't stop until it's done and perfected. And through Ingrid's journal, we delve into their friendship and her mind and remember that not everything is perfect, not everybody is happy and fine and no one is who they say they are. Her journal entries were beautiful and they helped Caitlin get to a point where she didn't need them anymore.

There's something about suicide books that draw me in. Maybe it's the spotlight on a mental illness that gets a bad rep, or it's because authors do such an amazing job at capturing a moment of grief that will never go away. Suicide stays with us forever, as all death does, especially when a teenager must face it. If these books, any books about suicide, help just one person realize their life is worth living, than the author has accomplished something. LaCour captured this darkly and poignantly and she will continue to be a must read for me from now on.

"The sun stopped shining for me is all. The whole story is: I am sad. I am sad all the time and the sadness is so heavy that I can't get away from it. Not ever."

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