Sunday, 26 August 2012
"Hold Still" by Nina LaCour
That night Ingrid told Caitlin, I'll go wherever 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.
The novel opens as the summer of Caitlin's sophomore year is approaching, and her best friend Ingrid has committed suicide. Caitlin's life "holds still" as she cannot move forward and cannot look back. When she finds a journal that Ingrid left for her, this makes her death even more raw, but also helps Caitlin understand Ingrid's feelings before her suicide, and gives her an insight into her friend that she never had before. As Ingrid writes, you're looking for answers but there are no answers. When Caitlin returns in the fall, she meets Dylan, a new girl at school who slowly becomes her friend, and Maddy, Dylan's girlfriend who also helps Caitlin recover after her tragedy. Caitlin also gets to know Jayson, the boy Ingrid had a crush on, and forms her own crush on Taylor, the popular boy who's not a stereotype. Her photography teacher Ms. Delani starts the year off by ignoring Caitlin completely, but then reaches out to her after accepting that she has not handled her grief over Ingrid, her favourite and most promising student, appropriately. Ms. Delani then surprises Caitlin by saying that she is also one of her favourite students.
I really liked this book. It was well written, sensitive to the delicate subject matter, and it made me feel things. This is always a good sign. I understood Caitlin, the main character, and I rooted for her throughout the whole book as she tried to deal with her grief. What she did with Ingrid's diary was risky, but I think it made sure people still had pieces of Ingrid whilst giving Caitlin closure. She had some unusual coping mechanisms and sometimes she was a bit annoying - especially when she fell out with Dylan for no reason - but she really was torn apart by the loss of her best friend. The supporting characters were well-rounded and three-dimensional, but I wanted more Taylor page-time! He obviously cared a lot for Caitlin and I liked how she gradually opened up to him more over the course of the book. At first I didn't really like Ingrid, but then as more of her story was told and her character developed, I really felt for her and what she was feeling. Nina LaCour really got under her skin and made her presence deeply felt, despite her being an absent character. She wasn't defined by her suicide and I liked that.
Nina LaCour's writing was incredible; it was sparse but got straight to the point. The only time there was much description was when Caitlin was talking about her hobbies; photography and building her treehouse. Her treehouse sounded amazing! Caitlin's love for photography was so clear. She obviously felt a deep connection to Ingrid when taking and developing pictures. What she did for her final photography project was so heartbreaking, but also hopeful at the same time.
Overall, this was a haunting, compelling debut, and I look forward to reading Nina LaCour's most recent novel, The Disenchantments, in the near future.