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Belzhar (2014)

par Meg Wolitzer

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7225230,977 (3.37)18
Jam Gallahue, fifteen, unable to cope with the loss of her boyfriend Reeve, is sent to a therapeutic boarding school in Vermont, where a journal-writing assignment for an exclusive, mysterious English class transports her to the magical realm of Belzhar, where she and Reeve can be together.
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Affichage de 1-5 de 52 (suivant | tout afficher)
This Young Adult novel looks at Jam, who is attending a special school for "fragile" teens following a trauma she suffered over the loss of a high school love. Jam is one of five students chosen to take a special English class focused on the writings of Sylvia Plath. One requirement of the class is to keep a journal. Jam, and her four classmates, have strange experiences when journaling, and these experiences bring them together on their healing journey.

So, there's a bit of magical realism, which I'm not a fan of, but Meg Wolitzer pulls it off brilliantly. The characters are well developed and realistic and the premise is so imaginative. A highly engrossing read! ( )
  LynnB | Jul 19, 2023 |
A solid 4 star book until about a little over halfway... then it was like a 2nd author started writing, and I didn't like where she took the plot. An addicting beginning with all the potential, but then wah wah wah, big let down. And Bitches Be Crazy, and not in an interesting way.


Jam has been sent to The Wooden Barn, a school for "emotionally fragile, highly intelligent" teenagers, because of "lingering effects of trauma". That trauma being Reeve, her sweet British boyfriend, who came to New Jersey as an exchange student and stole her heart. Life without Reeve has been a nightmare for Jam. He consumes her every thought, and all she wants is one more day being held by him.

Fortunately for her, Special Topics in English (a small hand-picked class of 5 people) is giving her a way back there. When she writes in her journal, she can go to a place where everything is like it used to be before her loss. But the more she visits Belzhar (as they call it), the more she starts to realize that there are truths to her life with Reeve that need confronted. And time in Belzhar is limited... what happens when they can't go back there anymore?



My Thoughts:
I read this book for book club this month, but really I've been wanting to read it since it came out. I love books about pain and loss and feeling. I love books where a character has to learn how to deal with a painful experience because it makes me feel all those feelings too. I was expecting something really deep here, but I didn't actually get what I was looking for.

It started out really well, and I read it really fast because the storyline is addicting. It begins with Jam moving into The Wooden Barn, which is a boarding school for kids dealing with issues. She gets put in a Special Topics English class with 4 other students, and they all wonder, why them?? Their teacher gives them one author to read for the entire semester, and this time it's going to be Sylvia Plath. They're also told they will write in a journal twice a week. Most of them roll their eyes about having to write in a journal, but soon learn that these journals are way more than what they seem. They allow them to go back to a time in their lives when their issue hasn't happened. For example, Casey, a classmate who was recently paralyzed, gets to go to a place where she can run. It makes them feel free from their pain, if only for a little while.

The thing that intrigued me about this book was I really wanted to know about these other 4 people in Jam's class. I wanted to know why they were all picked and where their Belzhar (a word they made up as a take on "Bell Jar") took them. I loved the magical element of the journals. The magical realism gave the book so much potential, that I just think it had a hard time living up to it. By halfway through the book, I had concluded that I didn't much like Jam. She was too into herself. Everything she felt seemed more important than what anyone else was feeling. She claimed to be friends with people, but never really seemed to ever go past saying "we're really good friends" and actually doing the things that "really good friends" do. When something happens to Sierra, Jam cries and cries to the houseparent about how it's going to affect her. Well what about the girl it's happening to?? Worry about her! It's not about YOU!

A lot of things in this book felt rushed. During Jam's second visit to Reeve, she already starts questioning things. If she laid in bed for a better part of a YEAR devastated about a death, I think it would take more than 1 visit before she would see anything but pure happiness. She has a lot more visits after that, and by the end it was hard to believe that she was holding on so tight when the questioning started so early. Another frustrating aspect was that it comes out that the relationship was very short, and while I'm not trying to tell anyone what they are entitled to feel, it was hard for me to take it seriously. Especially after everything comes out. I know young love can be intense, but 20-something days, does not an epic love story make... to me anyhow.

The rest of the book is hard to talk about without spoilers, but I want to say that I did NOT care for the ending at all. At all, at all. HEA's and couples were thrown out all over the place that didn't feel honest to the book. It also made me feel very angry towards one of the characters.

OVERALL: It's readable and entertaining, but it seemed like the author was a split personality when she wrote it. The second half doesn't match the first half for me. And the ending!!! Just no.

My Blog:

( )
  Michelle_PPDB | Mar 18, 2023 |
For a book so heavy on Silvia Plath references (down to the title), it appealed very much to possibly the only English major in the world who hasn't read her.
Sorry, but I'm afraid it's true.
The story isn't anything I'd normally look for-a story about teenagers working out their issues in some special school? Sounds depressing. But the way a story is told makes all the difference, and this one was told in a truly unique way. The book was still about kids dealing with trauma, but there was a magical element that made their journey to closure very interesting.
The audiobook reader, Jorjeana Marie, did a nice job. I'd let her read me another book. Reeve's English accent was her weak spot, but otherwise it was a good performance.
Jam's fixation on Reeve's accent and Britishness was irritating, until in retrospect, I saw what the author was doing. Once the big twist with Jam's story was revealed, I realized it was the one tiny clue to the truth about Jam and her obsession with Reeve. What a jerk, by the way. Reeve, not Jam.
This is the first time I've read anything by Meg Wolitzer, and I was really impressed with her writing, down to the last line of the book. ( )
  Harks | Dec 17, 2022 |
The rare book that paid off MORE than I was waiting for. A lot of stuff I like to see in one place. I read it knowing NOTHING about the plot, though, and I really think that's the way to go. ( )
  Adamantium | Aug 21, 2022 |
Interesting premise, "fragile, highly intelligent" teens write in an antique journal in Special Topics in English class, and it takes them to the place of their trauma, the reason they are in the Wooden Barn school. As the five students reveal their trauma, you think Jam's trauma, the death of her boyfriend, was horrific. As she goes through her memories of Reeve, I had visions of the way and the why of how he died. When I got to the big reveal, I thought, "REALLY??" I won't give any spoilers but REALLY?? ( )
  Dairyqueen84 | Mar 15, 2022 |
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Nom de l'auteurRôleType d'auteurŒuvre ?Statut
Wolitzer, Megauteur principaltoutes les éditionsconfirmé
Koob-Pawis, PetraTraducteurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
Marie, JorjeanaNarrateurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
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"People are always saying these things about how there's no need to read literature anymore - that it won't help the world. Everyone should apparently learn to speak Mandarin, and learn how to write code for computers. More young people should go into STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and math. And that all sounds true and reasonable. But you can't say what you learn in English class doesn't matter. That great writing doesn't make a difference. I'm different. It's hard to put into words but it's true.
Words matter. This is what Mrs. Q has basically been saying from the start. Words matter. All semester, we were looking for the words to say what we needed to say. We were all looking for our voice."
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Jam Gallahue, fifteen, unable to cope with the loss of her boyfriend Reeve, is sent to a therapeutic boarding school in Vermont, where a journal-writing assignment for an exclusive, mysterious English class transports her to the magical realm of Belzhar, where she and Reeve can be together.

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