By Ivy Rodriguez
Nina LaCour’s We Are Okay introduces Marin, a college freshman who has decided to stay at her college dormitory in New York over the Christmas holidays. The facts were then established: she chose to stay because she believes that she has nowhere else to go. She hints that something happened to her before she came to school but does not reveal it yet, instead, she dwells on the arrival of her estranged best friend, Mabel.
The whole book spans around Mabel’s three-day visit, interspersed with flashbacks of the summer they spent before parting ways to attend their chosen universities, and more importantly, before Marin disappeared after losing her grandfather.
Reading this book sort of felt like being the backseat passenger, with Marin in the driver’s seat and Mabel, the passenger. The ride is quiet — at times tense and awkward — but definitely intrusive. There’s a story in the silence between these two characters, and as a reader, I’m almost holding my breath to catch whatever clue they give out (or in some cases, don’t). These silences are filled in by LaCour’s skillful narration, offering pieces of their past, painting a contrast between their old summer days spent by the beach, the last of their youth, and their current situation as two new adults enduring a winter snow storm at an empty dormitory.
And because the book really was revolving around the three-day visit, there’s not a lot that happens. At least physically. We Are Okay can get quite dragging in the middle, especially as Marin refuses to speak about her grief while Mabel persuades.
The thing that made me go on was LaCour’s prose. It’s eloquent and introspective, and at times, I found myself slipping into my own thoughts about loss and loneliness.
Since the topic deals with grief, the book can feel quite heavy. It’s so subtle that halfway through, I was convinced that I was merely coasting along: I’m that backseat passenger half listening to a conversation the people up front were having — that is until I reached a certain page and realized that I’m as involved, that their words were playing inside my head all along, pulling up memories that weren’t necessarily mine but theirs.
No one was more surprised when I found myself suddenly tearing up as I flipped through the pages towards the end.
I may have felt like the backseat passenger for most of this book, but reaching the last few pages felt like I was with Marin and Mabel in their journey. I was there, with them, unlocking the secrets they hid from each other after that summer. I was there, with Marin, as she went through her guilt and loneliness until she allowed herself to hope and reach acceptance.
Usually, young adult books were expected to be light – in fact, you could easily pick up and start this book thinking that it’s harmless with its pretty packaging – but We Are Okay is a melancholic and somber read. Definitely a good book to consider when you’re feeling reflective.
We Are Okay is available at select Fully Booked branches and at Fully Booked Online.
Ivy Rodriguez likes to read Young Adult and Contemporary Romance novels. She works for the music industry by day and spends most of her nights with fictional friends.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not expressly reflect the views of Fully Booked. That said, we love our authors anyway.]