Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Epically Beautiful Hold Still

I have heard so much about Nina LaCour's Hold Still. So much. Nothing but rave reviews. Everyone telling me how beautiful it is and how I need to read it. It was on the list but I finally got to it because it is work's YA book club pick.

I have really mixed feelings about this one. The ideas of growing apart from friends and growing up without that sort of support (though differently handled) are very similar to The Disenchantments. Through the loss of their friends both protagonists grow into themselves.
I think that's probably what made me the most uncomfortable with this book. I don't want to say that Hold Still glorifies suicide, it definitely doesn't and it shows how torn everyone is by it, but I feel like the real gravity of the action doesn't come through. There's something about having a character lost, what is said, without being said, her one friend, and coming out of it with a whole bunch of new friends and all of these people who care about her, that almost makes it seem like her life is better without Ingrid. And I don't think that's what LaCour was going for. I don't mean that the book should show that she can't move on, that nothing comes next.

I love the progression that Caitlin goes through but maybe it's just that I didn't get a sense of what her life was like before it happened. I don't know how happy she was, not really. And it makes sense from a grief point of view to remember the bad moments with regret but there were no happy moments. There was nothing to suggest that Caitlin and Ingrid had been inseparable and I think that would have made the book even stronger.

We see Caitlin devastated by the action but it didn't really feel like it was specifically the loss of a best friend. I felt like it was just general loss and I don't want to put down how beautifully written it is, because it is truly beautiful, but it was just lacking somehow. I wanted some sort of specifics about what it was going to be like without Ingrid. Or more of what Ingrid taught Caitlin. I'll point to some of my favorite examples of loss.

In Where Things Come Back (I know, again) Cullen talks about what it's like without Gabriel. Specifically without his brother, not just a general loss, but his brother. In The Fault in Our Stars Hazel talks about what Augustus taught her and the impact he had on her life.

I don't feel like that after reading Hold Still. Caitlin lost someone very important and the way she copes is wonderful but the sense of what she lost didn't come through for me.

All of that aside, I think Nina LaCour did something really beautiful with Caitlin's waking up, for lack of better work. She really starts to come alive again and I think that, even being the whole point of the book, is wonderful and has a certain subtlety to it that I admire. It's a series of small things that wake her up and it's almost startling to go back and read the beginning and the end how much changes, even in the span of a year. The tree house, Dylan, Taylor, photography. It's wonderful.

That was perhaps my favorite part of the book. The way the characters came together. Perhaps that's what took me so long to get into it. So much of the beginning took place in Caitlin's head and I think it was that moment where Taylor comes into her house wearing the 'Will work for sex' shirt that I realized how great it could be. How strong the characters were and could be.  And I think I hit that realization right around the same time Caitlin starts to which is impressive on LaCour's part. Maybe that fact that I've always been a dialogue reader is what impacts my perspective on this. I could more easily read the parts where the characters were together.

I loved so many of the little things. Jayson's whole character and those 'what-might-have-been' feelings was just perfect. His feeling Ingrid's loss but still feeling like he didn't have the right to. I absolutely loved Taylor's talking to Caitlin through the death scene of Romeo and Juliet, just the meaningless but still important conversation. His telling Caitlin about being in third grade and what he liked about her. Even Henry finally talking to Caitlin in a serious manner at the end. I can't say anything Dylan does because I feel like everything she does is significant.

And I'll admit I thought Caitlin's photography project was going to be something about her. And it is about, I think how she saw Ingrid and, in a Paper Townsesque sort of way, the different frames through which people see one another. But I wanted a little bit of a shift to herself. I could see it being a goodbye but I think I wanted some sort of transition here. I wanted her to use the bad pictures that she took throughout the year as part of it. To show herself fracturing and them slowing coming back together but not without holes.

I feel like technically and character-wise I really liked Hold Still. But there still is just something about the overall idea that didn't sit well with me. I should mention that I have very strong anti-suicide opinions and I just couldn't find anything that I liked about Ingrid. I wanted to feel something for her so I could feel what Caitlin had lost but I just couldn't.

So, overall I give Nina LaCour's Hold Still a rating of: epic.

I really wanted to like it as much as everyone told me I would and it was good just not as good as I thought it would be.

Next I am so beyond lucky enough to have an advanced copy of Tessa Gratton's The Lost Sun and I plan on diving into it as soon as I can.

What did you loves think of Hold Still? Stunning? Wonderful? Disappointing?

Until next time, my ducks,

-A.M.Y-A

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