Book Reviews · books

Book Review :: We Are Okay

🚨SPOILER ALERT 🚨

AUTHOR :: Nina Lacour

GENRE :: YA FICTION

RATING :: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

SYNOPSIS :: Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

“The trouble with denial is that when the truth comes, you are.”

BOOK REVIEW :: Marin thought she knew everything about her deceased mother. She thought she and her grandpa had a great relationship. She thought everything in her life was okay until it all came crashing down; lies, heart-break, betrayal, regret…

She copes with the pain of her grandfather’s betrayal and death by running away to New York and leaving those who love and care for her behind without a word or goodbye… including her best friend Mabel.

This short read was fascinating, heart wrenching, disturbing, and full of surprises.

The reason why I gave it three stars however is because certain events in the book are never really clarified, and also because of the strange relationship between Marin and Mabel.

In the beginning, it’s made clear that both girls are best friends. A few chapters in though, and you discover that both friends had romantic feelings for one another once upon a time. This confused me so much as I was initially led to believe that I was reading a story about two friends with a sisterly bond only to realize that their relationship isn’t quite innocent.

Why this had me feeling uncomfortable was not because of my faith and stance on gay/lesbian relationships, but because of the way their relationship was described in the first few chapters (a sisterly bond as I’ve mentioned before), and because of Mabel’s parents view of Marin as a daughter. Throughout the story, I keep wondering what Marin and Mabel’s time together is leading up to… relationally speaking. Often, it feels like their relationship is not clear nor getting anywhere. By the end of the story, I am left wondering if the interceding of Mabel’s parents, and their desire to make Marin a part of their family, makes Marin & Mabel sisters/BFFs.

I also wish Marin’s grandfather’s body had been found, or at least made clear on whether or not he planned his suicide or if he died on accident.

Another event that made absolutely no sense to me was when Marin was approached by a surfer guy named Fred. Fred approaches Marin in what seems to be a flirtatious way, (I guess) inviting her to his van. Marin’s response almost made me believe that she felt she was in danger (the kind of danger you feel when a predator is in front of you). Then, just like that… without understanding the point of Frank and Marin’s interaction or why Marin seems troubled by his presence… the scene cuts to Marin looking for her gramps.

As frustrated or confusing as these parts of the book stuck out to me, I still enjoyed reading Marin’s story.

I didn’t expect this huge turn of events which included her grandfather not only dying, but lying to Marin about his health, refusing to share the memories of Marin’s mother with his granddaughter, and allowing his grief to drive him mad.

The chapter in which Marin discovers the truth about her grandfather’s lies was heavy! I could almost feel the feelings of betrayal, anger, and shock as the main character tries to wrap her head around what had been hidden from her for years.

Marin’s awkwardness, loneliness, anger, frustration, fears, and regrets are described in such a beautiful and relatable way.

When you’ve experienced loss, grief, and betrayal in life, you develop a deep appreciation for stories that echo and translate what may have been difficult to express before; At least that’s how I felt.

When I was young and had no understanding of my emotions, I would grow angry and frustrated because I couldn’t put a finger to what I was experiencing. I’d wish my vocabulary and understanding of words were advanced so that I could finally say what exactly was that was weighing me down.

I had learned the definition of words like ‘depressed,’ ‘lonely,’ and ‘hopeless,’ but I failed to relate to them because I felt the words alone never did justice. Feelings always seemed to be uglier than the words used to describe them.

My point is (in case I lost you) that the author does an amazing job describing the character’s battles; her unique interpretation of tragedy and feelings takes me down memory lane for a brief moment and helps me understand what I once had a difficulty understanding.

Another gut wrenching part of the story that taught me a lot was the case of Marin’s gramps.

He is quick to tell people what not to make him do or feel, but he fails to understand just how much his grief is robbing him of his life. While he sacrifices transparency with his granddaughter to not have her worry about him, his focus on the loss of his daughter- Marin’s mother- robs him of the opportunity to create a better quality of life with his granddaughter.

‘Sister,’ Gramps said, his voice low and venomous, ‘I lost my wife when she was forty-Six. I lost my daughter when she was twenty-four. And you remind me to remember them?’

The lesson I got out of Marin’s grandfather is that what you fail to confront will eventually eat you alive. He never stops mourning the loss of his daughter and drives himself mad to the point of hoarding what once belonged to her. He keeps wishing for a world that isn’t real and never will be so he never mourns properly.

I’ve seen this kind of behavior/mindset happen in real life; An epidemic of people who can never let go of what they can never get back whether it’s time, a relationship, an angry word, a past mistake, etc. They want a better, and happier, quality of life but can never let go of the pain and regrets of their past to create that which they want. While mourning is certainly a process that can never be rushed, I’ve noticed that there is a difference between mourning but moving forward and mourning while remaining stuck.

Marin’s grandfather suffers the loss of his daughter in silence and solitude. He never heals. He never invites Marin to share in the remembrance of her mother, his daughter. Because of his selfishness, he robs Marin of the opportunity to get to know her mother through his memories and narration.

The final chapters of this book are bitter-sweet. Marin is faced with two choices- wallow in pain and solitude like her grandfather or take the hand of those who still love and care for her even though her wounds are deep and unbearable.

In taking the step of receiving the love and support she desperately needs and craves, she is able to right some of the choices that she’s regretted.

In comparison to her grandfather, while she cannot bring him nor her mother back to life, she can direct her attention to those in her life who still matter & create a life that won’t revolve around grief 24/7.

What did you think of ‘We Are Okay?’

What were your thoughts on the plot or the characters?

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