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And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard - Review

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Where did I get it? I bought it. I'm researching, broadly, for my own writing, abortion in literature. I'm writing some things on the subject so I wanted to see what others had written. I read an article with some recommendations and this was one of them. I ordered about seven books I think? 

What's it about? Well, Emily Beam has just arrived at Amherst School for Girls, where poet Emily Dickinson was a student, in the town where she lived. Emily Beam lies to her new classmates about where she's been. The book is set in 1995, and what happened at the end of 1994 was that Emily's boyfriend, Paul, killed himself with a gun in the library of their school. 

I started off the book thinking it was about a school shooting; I didn't realise Paul had killed only himself and not taken people out with him. Then it turns out that Emily was pregnant, and had broken up with Paul, telling him she was going to have an abortion. Through flashbacks (which are really deftly woven in, I liked them) throughout the book, we see what happened between Emily and Paul.

Meanwhile, Emily writes poetry. Encouraged by her French teacher (who I really liked) and her growing friendship with her roommate K.T, we see Emily write all her experiences into poems. 

To begin with I didn't understand why the book was set in 1995, I didn't get why, if it was written in 2014, it was set so far in the past, especially as the events of the book really could have happened in 2014. However, I think it was a good choice because it does mean that smartphones didn't exist and therefore Emily can go more incognito. In 2014, if a girl joined your school and you didn't know her history, you could probably find out everything about her within about ten minutes thanks to social media. I liked this aspect once I thought about it (but I do think you could write a similar book set in 2014). 

I really liked the book - I liked Emily as a person, as well as most of the supporting characters. I liked how clear she was about the fact she wanted an abortion. She was encouraged by her parents, it's true, but I certainly didn't get the vibe that it was something she was being forced into. We don't see much of the actual abortion itself, it's certainly not graphic. I would have liked to see more of life within the school, but it's not overly important in the scheme of things. I liked Emily's poems and how we learnt more about her through them. I liked the inclusion of the stuff around Emily Dickinson and learning more about her life - I know almost nothing about her but I'd like to read some of her poetry. I am glad I read this book. 

What age range is it for? I'm going to say 15+ for sensitive content and gun violence. (Although Paul's death itself is not described graphically)

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? No 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I'd say Emily has some PTSD going on, which explains some of her actions, but it isn't explicit. 

Is there any sex stuff? A little, although it's not graphic. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, as I said, Paul's death isn't described explicitly, but Emily thinks a lot about his death and his body. 

Are there swear words? No. 

What criticisms do I have? Honestly very few. I would have liked to see more of the school life, but that's because I love stories about boarding schools. I would love to read Jenny's other book - I may have to purchase it! 

Would I recommend the book? Absolutely 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? As I said I'm trying to do this research, and I wanted a short book to get through before my holiday on Saturday! 

What other books is it like? Hmmm, it reminded me of something but I can't quite put my finger on it. Something like older LGBT books, like Annie on My Mind maybe? I think it's setting and tone. 

How many stars? Five out of five. Lovely book - a difficult story but really empathetically told. 

Where is the book going now? I will definitely keep it!

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