Monday, January 7, 2013

Book Review: The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan

SUMMARY: 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.


Most notable with this book, for me, is how seamlessly Tim's story is woven in with Duncan's, both from what happened in the past as well as Duncan's present. There is a rawness and honesty, particularly with Tim, that will hook readers. Though much of the story really is Tim's, through the narration he's left for Duncan on CD, but there are plenty of breaks with Duncan mixed in. Potent, too, is how everything effects Duncan, casting events he even had a roll in into a new light.

Tim is a fabulously done character, an outcast and a boy who has no self-esteem or confidence. Though in a way, he's accepted his lot in life in terms of being an albino, there's still a part of him that wants to break out of that, a part that just wants to be truly seen. His relationship with Vanessa is as heartbreaking as it is intriguing, a girl who in her own way wants to break out of some bounds as well. The friendship, with a clear element of wanting more, that forms between them carries a strong note throughout the book. Even with this, there is such a strong development to Tim, with hints of his own commentary thrown into his unflinching recount of everything that happened. He is a boy who will tug your heart, and challenge your mind.

Duncan is a different kind of boy, relatively popular his senior year but more so as a result of various things that have happened than anything else. A guy who, previously, seemed to be his own sort of outcast and quiet, he is in a weird place through much of the book, an element that is captured beautifully. The way he thinks, the things he feels, and his reactions to things were so well done.

Truly, there is something almost inexplicable about this one. This is a book that will fully draw you in, with a few different story lines running through.  The tragedy aspect is also smoothly built in, pitching it in a few ways without being blatant about it. This is a different sort of book, but one that is definitely intriguing and well done.

Source: ARC received from publisher in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Ages 12 and up 
Hardcover: 320 pages 
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 8, 2013


  1. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles.

  2. Wasn't sure about adding this to my TBR pile, but I'm doing it now! Thanks for taking the time to share your review! :)