If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing him in the library stacks.
She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.
But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.
Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.
From New York Times bestselling author Meg Wolitzer comes a breathtaking and surprising story about first love, deep sorrow, and the power of acceptance.
First sentence: “I was sent here because of a boy.”
Guess how I felt when I finished this book? Rageeeeeeee.
Belzhar is about a young teenager, Jam, who is sent to the Wooden barn, a boarding school for kids that because her boyfriend died. At the school, she is put together in special English class, comprised of four other teenagers, all dealing with issues that haunt them. They are given a journal, where it takes them to an unimaginable world filled with moments before tragedy hits them. Here, the characters are given a voice to confront their past and their reality.
I feel so cheated by what happens. I kind of enjoyed Belzhar even though I disliked the main character, but what sent me over the rage train was what you find out towards the end of the book. I just—I can’t.
Five Things About Belzhar I Would Write About If I Documented It In A Journal
My Annoyance With The Way Jam Keeps Describing Herself—A Long-Haired Nice Girl
I get it. I don’t need to be told twice or the many other times Jam referred and reminded me that she’s a “long-haired nice girl,” that she’s not exceptional outstanding, that she isn’t insanely pretty or popular or smart or funny. She’s just an average high school girl. It does make you wonder what Reeve saw in her when she constantly describes herself this way. It’s quite annoying. Every time she calls herself “one of those long-haired nice girls,” I roll my eyes. What I get from that is that she’s hinting to readers that it’s amazing Reeve, a charismatic British guy, likes her even though she’s one of those unmemorable girls. Jam, please stop.
Reeve’s death is the major mystery we’re waiting to be revealed! What happened to Reeve? How did he die? Well then, guys. [spoiler]It turns out, he never died. At least not in the real life. He and Jam were never together. They only made out once. And Jam did not get the hint that he was not interested in her (even though there were a plethora of clues). And when she finds him with her “rival,” Jam “kills” Reeve.[/spoiler] LIKE WHAT EVEN??? Seriously, Jam?
For those who don’t want to be spoiled, let’s say what you learn about Reeve’s death is far from satisfying. I cannot stop ranting about how this twist makes Jam look a bit ridiculous. They’ve only know each other for [spoiler]less than two months.[/spoiler]. He’s not everything. This twist ruined the little enjoyment I had for this book.
Jam’s Story Was Not Strong
I don’t like to compare her story with the other characters because every story matters, but I can’t help it. I can only think: if only Jam was developed well and was incredibly likable, then maybe I would’ve liked her story? Unfortunately, that’s not the case for me. Once you find out about Reeve’s death, you can’t help but feel like Jam was being incredibly petty, especially when you think about the other characters’ stories and how they blame themselves. I’m not dismissing her coping mechanism as being ridiculous; it’s a totally valid way of coping with lost. However, Jam bothers me. Again, it’s the way she keeps going on about how average she is and how lucky she is that he took interest in her. Blergh.
The Supporting Characters Are Not Developed Well
Everything about these characters is superficial. By the end of Belzhar, I still feel like I don’t understood these characters. I feel like I was talked to, instead of being given the opportunity through the descriptions to experience the emotions these characters are feeling. Many times, when stuff about the supporting characters is revealed, it’s through dialogue. That’s fine and all, but once their issue have been revealed, the character is essentially forgotten, and does not have any further character development afterwards. They seem to deal with their issues behind the scene whilst writing in the magical journal. They just seem to dust their hands, and boom, their issues are no more. That’s a problem since I never got to see how they’ve come to accept their situation. It’s hard to sympathize for characters when I don’t feel the emotional connection.
Wanting More of Sierra’s Story
Belzhar should’ve been about Sierra. Her story is more compelling than Miss Long-Haired Nice Girl, Jam. I just felt for her—how she felt like she failed to protect her brother. And the choices she makes at the end, man, it’s not an easy one. I want to see what was going through her head to make her decide that was the right decision.
You should probably stay away from this book if you don’t want to get severely disappointed and rageeeee.