Sunday, 16 December 2012

Review: The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth La Ban

The Tragedy Paper  The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth La Ban
  Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
  Publication date: January 8th 2013
  Source: Netgalley
  Rating:  3.5 Stars

 Tim Macbeth is a 17-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is, “Enter here to be and find a friend.” Tim does not expect to find a friend; all he really wants to do is escape his senior year unnoticed. 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, and she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone finds out. Tim and Vanessa enter into a clandestine relationship, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.

The story unfolds from two alternating viewpoints: Tim, the tragic, love-struck figure, and Duncan, a current senior, who uncovers the truth behind Tim and Vanessa’s story and will consequently produce the greatest Tragedy Paper in Irving’s history.

The Tragedy Paper is not my usual type of read but something about the synopsis drew me in.  I was affected by this story, but in a mixed way.  I guess this is to be expected when this tale revolves around the re-telling of a tragic event involving two students, Tim an albino and social outsider and Vanessa, the popular and pretty girl. 

Duncan is entering into his senior year at The Irving, a boarding school in New York.  He’s trying to forget an event from the last year, which he had a part in.  But he’s put smack into the middle of it when he discovers his “treasure” left in his dorm room are audio CD’s made by Tim, recounting the tragedy and the months leading up to it.  At first Duncan doesn’t want to listen, he just wants to get back to normal school life, and the pursuit of a girl he hopes didn’t get away.  But soon the lure of finding out exactly what happened proves too hard to resist and he’s listening, riveted by the story. 

This was an unusual tale, really two stories wrapped up in one. First we have Duncan the senior who feels guilty about what happened to Tim and Vanessa, although, we have no idea why.  Then we have the story of Tim and Vanessa recounted by Tim through his CD’s.  The story slowly unfolds as flashbacks through Tim and Duncan’s recall, and through that, we get the bittersweet tale of how Tim and Vanessa formed an unlikely bond.  We also get a secondary romance of Duncan and Daisy.

I have to say I felt more of a connection to Tim than anyone else.  I think this was partly due to the fact that his tale was in the first person, as he was telling his story to Duncan.  I felt his loneliness and self-consciousness, profoundly throughout the story and was happy that Vanessa latched onto him.  I can’t imagine always feeling like everyone sees you as a freak.  Just the way he described reactions from people and dealing with being in public hurt my heart.  I yearned for him to make friends so that Vanessa wasn’t his only focus, though.  I didn’t have the same connection to Vanessa, and I while I was thrilled that she treated him as a human being and more, I wanted to shake her at times.  I’m sure she knew how much she affected Tim.  The situation was bittersweet, and open ended.   

Apart from Tim’s bit, the rest of the story is told in the third person and I’m not sure that worked entirely well.  I felt a distance with Duncan and couldn’t really get a read on him.  Maybe if his part in the tragedy was revealed earlier, I could’ve understood him and his motivations a little better. This might have been purposeful because the main focus of the story was Tim and Vanessa, but I think I would’ve enjoyed this more if Duncan was more fleshed out. I wasn’t really moved by Duncan and Daisy’s romance either.  There was no lead up and I really knew nothing about Daisy. 

Overall I enjoyed this story and I was anxious to find out what transpired, but I also felt there was something missing. I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another read by Ms. La Ban, because even with some of my issues, I was engrossed.  

As a side note I will be off the grid for a while starting the end of this week. I'm taking a vacation, and my internet access will be limited. I'll probably be popping in on Goodreads here and there.  I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe holiday, and in light of recent events gives all their loved ones an extra hug!  I'll catch up with all of you after the New Year!  


  1. Wonderful review, Rachel! I don't know if I'll pick this one up...the third person shift seems to have been disastrous, but I'm curious about Tim's take as well. I doubt I'd enjoy this as much as you, though, so perhaps I should avoid it, even though I'm sure my curiosity will get the best of me! ;) I hope you have a terrific holiday, Rachel and a very happy new year! :D

  2. I was going to request this one... but I'm not sure If I'm going to now I'm not in the mood to read something sad or average right now. Plus I'm not a huge fan of third person .

    Great review though

  3. I'm still debating should I request this one or not! I think I'll and give it a try. I love your review so I hope I'll like it just a tiny bit more :)

    Rachel enjoy the holidays! :)

  4. It doesn't seem like my normal read, but I loved your review.

    Happy Holidays!

  5. I really like the story. I don't know why but the whole audiotape flashback really fascinates me. I think I'm going to buy it, and read it sometime later when I'm in the right mood. Thanks!

  6. Great review! I had seen this one on Netgalley and was intrigued (also because it was Read Now hahaha) but wasn't convinced it's the book for me. I'm thinking I made the right decision. Third person and I are not friends. Have a great holiday!

  7. Something about the story is drawing me in as well. I'm sort of dying to know what happens to Tim and Vanessa, and how Duncan plays a part. Lovely review, Rachel.

    Enjoy your vacation!

  8. Hope you enjoy your vacation, Rachel!!

    This story sounds interesting, but I think I'll skip on this one. It sounds rather sad and I'm looking for something a little different at the minute, because most of the books I am reading are fairly sad at the moment.

    Great review!

  9. I'm not always fond of books that alternate between first person and third person. I haven't come across many where the transition is seamless. Anyway, this sounds pretty good overall, but maybe not my type of read. The cover is absolutely stunning though. :) Awesome review!

  10. Well, I can see the dark charm of this book. It sounds like you did and didn't really enjoy it that much. Your review piqued my interest, though. I think I'm going to check this book out anyway. Great review, Rachel.

  11. Great review, Rachel. I have this one to check out. I'm certainly intrigued and your review makes me more so, even with some of the issues you had.

    Have a nice vacation!

  12. Sometimes the most memorable books are those that are outside our comfort zone. I'm glad this one worked for you, despite a few problems. The narrative technique does seem a bit odd, but I'm very adaptable. :))
    Enjoy your holidays, Rachel!

  13. I like the idea of having two stories wrapped in one but I'm not sure if I'd feel like wanting to read tragedies in the New Year. Thanks for sharing how the story is being narrated. I don't think I'd mind the third person shift but I can see why you felt you couldn't quite connect with Duncan. Lovely review, Rachel :)

  14. Thanks so much for your honest review. First time hearing of this book but have to look it up!

  15. Oh. My. Word. This sounds so sad but I NEEd to read it. I love the title as well! The Tragedy Paper. wow. Wonderful review, Rachel!

  16. Great review! This doesn't sound like something I'd normally read but I kind of NEED to know what happened to Tim and Vanessa. This is also the first time I've heard of it, so I'm going to go add it to my to read list!

  17. Hm, I have a hard time with books if I don't feel a connection to the characters. This one sounded intriguing, but your review has definitely curbed my expectations--which is a good thing.

    Happy vacation and happy holidays, Rachel! :)

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  18. aw . bummr. BUT I;M SO EXITED FOR THIS 1


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