Tim Macbeth, a seventeen-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is “Enter here to be and find a friend.” A friend is the last thing Tim expects or wants—he just hopes to get through his senior year unnoticed. Yet, despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “It” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim's surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, but she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone ever finds out. Tim and Vanessa begin a clandestine romance, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.
Jumping between viewpoints of the love-struck Tim and Duncan, a current senior about to uncover the truth of Tim and Vanessa, The Tragedy Paper is a compelling tale of forbidden love and the lengths people will go to keep their love.
The Tragedy Paper is not my usual type of read but something about the synopsis drew me in. I was affected by this story, but in a mixed way. I guess this is to be expected when this tale revolves around the re-telling of a tragic event involving two students, Tim an albino and social outsider and Vanessa, the popular and pretty girl.
Duncan is entering into his senior year at The Irving, a boarding school in New York. He’s trying to forget an event from the last year, which he had a part in. But he’s put smack into the middle of it when he discovers his “treasure” left in his dorm room are audio CD’s made by Tim, recounting the tragedy and the months leading up to it. At first Duncan doesn’t want to listen, he just wants to get back to normal school life, and the pursuit of a girl he hopes didn’t get away. But soon the lure of finding out exactly what happened proves too hard to resist and he’s listening, riveted by the story.
This was an unusual tale, really two stories wrapped up in one. First we have Duncan the senior who feels guilty about what happened to Tim and Vanessa, although, we have no idea why. Then we have the story of Tim and Vanessa recounted by Tim through his CD’s. The story slowly unfolds as flashbacks through Tim and Duncan’s recall, and through that, we get the bittersweet tale of how Tim and Vanessa formed an unlikely bond. We also get a secondary romance of Duncan and Daisy.
I have to say I felt more of a connection to Tim than anyone else. I think this was partly due to the fact that his tale was in the first person, as he was telling his story to Duncan. I felt his loneliness and self-consciousness profoundly throughout the story and was happy that Vanessa latched onto him. I can’t imagine always feeling like everyone sees you as a freak. Just the way he described reactions from people and dealing with being in public hurt my heart. I yearned for him to make friends so that Vanessa wasn’t his only focus, though. I didn’t have the same connection to Vanessa, and I while I was thrilled that she treated him as a human being and more, I wanted to shake her at times. I’m sure she knew how much she affected Tim. The situation was bittersweet, and open ended.
Apart from Tim’s bit, the rest of the story is told in the third person and I’m not sure that worked entirely well. I felt a distance with Duncan and couldn’t really get a read on him. Maybe if his part in the tragedy was revealed earlier, I could’ve understood him and his motivations a little better This might have been purposeful because the main focus of the story was Tim and Vanessa, but I think I would’ve enjoyed this more if Duncan was more fleshed out. I wasn’t really moved by Duncan and Daisy’s romance either. There was no lead up and I really knew nothing about Daisy.
Overall I enjoyed this story and I was anxious to find out what transpired, but I also felt there was something missing. I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another read by Ms. La Ban, because even with some of my issues, I was engrossed.
A copy of this was provided by Knopf Books for Young Readers through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
- features an albino telling a story to another kid who is even less developed - also he took part in the 'tragic' part of the story so I'm unsure as to how he became so riveted by its retelling
- there is a tragedy that is continually referred to but not revealed until the end ... at which point I realized it wasn't a tragedy, it was more of a fairly standard sledding accident
- there is a completely undeveloped love interest who likes to dress like a rainbow and smells like a pig when she gets sick
- the albino kid has head aches and eye aches at the same frequency at which he references the past he shares with the other even less developed character
- the featured school locally sources their cafeteria food - this is mentioned a lot so I guess it's a plot point
- I think the teacher from dead poets society snuck into this book and took a nap, but then he got trapped!
- the real tragedy is that Barnes & Noble tricked me into buying this book with their recommendations based on books I bought. I would like to get my hands on that software and take it sledding ... if you know what I mean
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
THE TRAGEDY PAPER's focus is a love triangle between 17-year-olds at a boarding school. What makes it a rarity in the YA field is how "clean" it is. Anyone reading YA these days knows that, as a genre, young adult literature has grown up and skewed strongly toward more adult themes, language, and issues. Not so with Elizabeth Laban's debut novel. The book is wall to wall free of profanity or R-rated acts of any sort. It's just a straight-out, old-fashioned love story -- with a few quirks.
Quirk #1: It starts and circles back like S.E. Hinton's THE OUTSIDERS for no other reason than (according to the afterword) Hinton's book -- another "clean" read, thanks to the era it was written -- is one of Laban's favorites.
Quirk #2: The protagonist is an albino. This reminded me of Palascio's WONDER, in a way. Obviously the characters here are much older, but still, Tim Macbeth (I kid you not) stands out like a white light that draws stares from all around. He is another case of a "marked man" in the lead, against all odds.
Quirk #3: THE TRAGEDY PAPER is a book within a book. It's mostly about Tim's love for a girl named Vanessa, who happens to be attached to that predictable YA staple, the most handsome and athletic popular jock in the school (here named Patrick). But Tim's entire narrative is told, THIRTEEN REASONS WHY-like, via tape (CDs in this case). The listener? A new senior named Duncan (again, I kid you not), a year on the heels of the triangular leads, who listens to the recordings because he happens to get Tim's room from the fateful year before. Neatly enough, he, like Tim, has a romantic interest he is pursuing.
Quirk #4: The book seems to be contemporary, yet reflects little of its time in history and how modern teens, lifestyles are today. At one point, up early in the morning, one character uses the line "Time to make the doughnuts" as a joke. What 17-year-old would understand THAT allusion, I wondered. The Dunkin Donuts commercial came out in the 80s. More strangely still, I think cell phones are mentioned once, and one big event in the novel -- a secret "outing" planned by Patrick -- is advertised via handwritten posters over a series of days. This jars in an almost anachronistic way. What kids that age would bother with such an old-school, labor-intensive, and clearly dangerous (if you don't want to be discovered) method of announcing a party? Does the word "texting" mean nothing to this book?
Quirk #5: The Tragedy Paper, an assignment from the English teacher Mr. Simon, plays a minor role throughout. You keep expecting it to somehow play a larger role, but no. The only connection is that, by definition, both book and assignment are tragedies. Nothing earth-shaking there.
Overall, the book scored high marks for its earnestness and flowing style. Is it in the upper tier of boarding school books? Hardly. And it loses steam toward the end, where it meets an almost anti-climactic end. Still, the narrative pulls you along, and you wonder as much as Duncan does how all of Tim's troubles will pull together. In the end, and ironically enough, I felt as if the book needed a more tragic end than it got. Weird, huh? Nevertheless, I admired Laban for what she accomplished here and think many students, from middle school and up, will agree.
As the contemporary lover I am, I ADORED this book! The boarding school setting was great. The characters were beautifully fleshed out and compelling. The plot was full of twists and turns and suspense. Basically, this book had it all and a whole lot more!
When I originally heard about The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LeBan, I instantly added it to my wish list. It sounded like an emotional and compelling story. Better yet, I had been hearing some comparisons of it to books by John Green and Jay Asher, two of my favorite YA authors. Thankfully, The Tragedy Paper was a beautifully written and well executed coming of age that has landed Elizabeth LeBan on my "authors to watch" list.
The first aspect of this book that I enjoyed was the way in which it was told. Elizabeth LeBan intertwines the stories of Duncan and Tim by using third person POV for Duncan and voice recording/Thirteen Reasons Why style for Tim. At first, I was worried that it wouldn't work for the book, that I wouldn't be able to get a clear picture of everything occurring. However, as the story progressed, this method become one of my favorite parts. Elizabeth beautifully combined their stories, switching back and forth at the most perfect of moments. She also did a great job of fleshing out their stories on their own as well as bringing them together as one, and while Tim's story was my favorite, Duncan story was enjoyable as well.
Moving on, I really enjoyed the characters in this one. Duncan and Tim were boys who at the surface appear to be very different, but at the heart, are very similar. Both are looking for their place in a world where there doesn't seem one. They're both falling in love for the first time, and dealing with the pros and cons to that. They're learning to let go and live, and with that, learning that bad things happen to good people. Duncan and Tim were two characters I loved getting to know more about. They were both smart, determined, and sweet boys, and I feel that all teens as well as adults will be able to see parts of themselves as well as their high school experience in their characters as well as their friends. Better yet, Elizabeth LaBan also introduced an amazing supporting cast in this one as well. I loved the addition of the high school English teacher. He was an interesting main, and I teacher I know I would have loved to have in real life. I also enjoyed reading more about Vanessa, Tim's love interest, and Daisy, Duncan's love interest. While the former of the two plays a bigger part in the book, I enjoyed reading about both of them equally and felt both added wonders to the book.
The plot in this was also captivating and well-done. As mentioned above, I loved the method in which it was told, and through that method came a lot of suspense as well as twists and turns. Throughout the book, I was constantly curious to see how everything would play out. I knew from the start something tragic happened to Vanessa and Tim, and while it was hinted to slowly, I never knew exactly what happened to the very end, which lead to a lot of wonderment and suspense on my part. I also enjoyed that the main part of this book was about growing up and learning to let go and move on. Tim and Duncan were two boys who had faced a lot in the last year, and through their story a lot of emotional and personal growth was made, making it a huge as well as essential part of the book.
In all, The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LeBan is a gem of a book! I highly, highly recommend that all of you give this book a try, especially those of you who enjoy contemporary novels, ones specifically in style of Green or Asher. However, word of warning: set apart a good amount of time to read this one, because once you start it, it's hard to let go.
ARC supplied by NetGalley and Knopf Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.
Stopped at around page sixty.
What I read of THE TRAGEDY PAPER wasn't terrible. It wasn't bad. It wasn't infuriating. It was just tremendously uninteresting and dull, and that's the worst type of novel - the type where you have nothing to say about it, because there wasn't anything unique, or noticeable, or even angering.
Because you can't look away from horrendous books, as hard as you may try. It's still sucking you in, isn't it? But it's easy to abandon a boring story, because there's nothing.
The characters were plain, the writing average. The plot really was nonexistent from what I read. It was incredibly tedious, and I can't stress that enough. Perhaps I should've read a bit more, but I won't be bothered reading some more snore-inducing pages before I actually fall asleep.
The first fifty pages are some of the most important for a book, because it decides whether you'll stay for the ride of drop it like it's on fire. I choose to drop it like it was burning.
I don't have any violent feelings toward this book. It just wasn't my cup of tea.
Přesně tohle jsem očekávala od Greenovek, kde jsem to ale bohužel nenašla. Citlivý a dojemný příběh o tom, jak to dneska vypadá ve společnosti teenagerů. Rychle se to čte, hlavní hrdina je sympaťák, je to albín a celé je to takové dojemně tragické. Bavila jsem se od začátku do konce. A největší plus za Don't stop believin.
This is hard to tell but the first word I have is PROFOUND. I know there isnt anyone who reads this that will not be completely blown away. The situations and the story is pretty complex and dare I say tragic. There is a part when Tim answers to Mr Simon, the English teacher, that he didn't know id he meant tragic in the literary sense. That was like boom BIG reveal. You will get what happens next. They say you give five 5 yes 5 stars to a book that leaves you thinking, maybe laughing, maybe crying, but this left me hopeful! Sometimes even a senior can "get it" , really make a choice and understand what that choice means.
I feel so blessed to get ARC's and blog, this is such an honor for me and I wish I could meet the author. I will say that the book description in my opinion is not accurate. I did my own edit. It is released in Jan and then I will come back and add my quotes from my clippings. Now if I did it would ruin it. Let me tell you I totally GOT it.
My version: Tim Macbeth is a 17-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is, “Enter here to be and find a friend.” Tim has never been comfortable with his appearance and he really understands that people are staring and looking, but in a good way they are curious, not making fun or thinking he is a freak. When his Mom and Step Dad (who loves Tim like he is his own Son) decide that they will move to Italy and Tim will have one GREAT senior year at his Alma mater, Irving. There is a huge snow storm and at the airport he meet Vanessa. She treats him so totally normal that when he says he has a room, she goes across to the hotel with him and for the first time Tim is not albino, he is just Tim. She tells him she is going to Irving, he can't bring himself to tell her he is going too. He knows she has a boyfriend, Patrick (not a fan of his) Tim and Vanessa enter into a clandestine relationship, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.
The story unfolds from two alternating viewpoints: Tim, the tragic, love-struck figure, and Duncan, a current senior, who uncovers the truth behind Tim's story. Tim gave Duncan the story. As ritual and traditions are tested the story takes a few turns in the last 1/3 that blows my mind. Tim and Vanessa’s story is told and the entire truth is revealed. Can Duncan produce the greatest Tragedy Paper in Irving’s history?
Sometimes it's hard, impossible even, to know how much magnitude a choice holds until it is all over.
Duncan Meade enters the Irving School a senior this year. As a school tradition, each senior gets their own dorm room without having to share it with anyone. On the first day of school, each senior will go to the senior hall and find their room; and in the room, there will be "treasures" left behind for them from the previous senior who lived there. Duncan has one fear: he is afraid to find out if the smallest room in the hall belongs to him. And of course, it does. The treasures the previous owner, Tim Macbeth, leaves behind for Duncan is a note and a stack of CDs. Those CDs play the recordings of Tim's story for Duncan as the "meat of your Tragedy Paper," which is the Irving School's senior English paper to be handed in at the end of the school year.
The Tragedy Paper started out, for me, as intriguing; I was curious to see how the connection between Tim Macbeth and Duncan Meade would play out. Would it be, you know, like Shakespeare's Macbeth, in which Macbeth kills Duncan? Or would Tim Macbeth share the same tragic flaw with Macbeth, and Duncan the receiving end of that flaw like King Duncan? Or what? Of course, I was expecting the use of these two names to have some significance. I have been taught in Literature class that a text alludes to something like this, it is saying something implicitly, and you should find what it infers. But it looks like this book falls flat in that department, because as far as I know, the only function of this allusion is only to tell the reader: Hey! This book is a tragedy because its two main characters are named after the two in Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth! Hmm. Right now, in my head, I can even see my beloved Lit teacher hold up her index finger in a warning manner, and hear her say her favorite disapproval: "Nonono."
Again, I don't seem to share everyone (who's read it)'s enthusiasm about this book. Some say that it's "deep" and "profound," but I honestly don't see how that can be. It's not like I suck that much at reading between the lines and critical thinking; how about it's just meh? 90% of the book is about Tim told, narrated by Tim's recordings which Duncan listens to; while Duncan's part takes up only about 10%. And this makes me wonder why it has to be written this way. Not only does it bother me that the book doesn't just simply tell Tim's story--which already is the focus, if not the entire meat, of this story--it has to have Duncan as a medium (why bother?), but it also irritates me that, knowing very well Duncan's function is only to hang around and play the CDs so we can listen to them as well, the book tries so hard to have Tim affect his romantic life--in a way trying to make a connection between them when it's strained and uncalled for. If there'd been some believable and close connection between them for the recordings to have their natural effects, I would've believed it and appreciated it more.
In the end, I'll say that The Tragedy Paper is not a bad book, but there are a lot of things that I personally didn't like. The ending, for instance, felt too contrived in the way that it is steered into a tragedy pattern, which I understand since I get it, the point is that this book is a tragedy; but I still didn't like it that much. And the effects Tim's story has on Duncan are to me a little too unbelievable. I'd love for it to have more substance, and if the switching between two points of view is going to be this unbalanced and the connection this strained, how about no switching at all? I'd be happy to read Tim's story alone as the whole book without Duncan having a voice in part of the narration. That's just me. For the most part, I enjoyed Tim's story and wanted to see how it was tragic and how it would end, but once I did, I felt greatly underwhelmed. Still, as I said, it's not a bad book. It has good potentials but it's just not my cup of tea. 2.5 stars.
------------------------ I received a digital copy from NetGalley and the publisher for review.
LaBan's The Tragedy Paper is contemplative and academic, sure to appeal to readers looking for a meatier, slower-paced read. It's a strange sort of book, though one that certainly has some good company. Though I didn't exactly fly through The Tragedy Paper or become caught up in the characters, I really enjoyed reading it, curious to find out what had happened during the previous year at the Irving School.
There's a whole subset of young adult fiction about boarding schools. Something about them calls to the imagination, I guess: the freedom or how elite they seem, perhaps. The Irving School has an illustrious history, complex traditions, and the requisite quirky professor needed to help guide the main character to enlightenment in the style of Dead Poets' Society. The Irving School holds more appeal for me than many of the boarding school settings I've read (that don't have magic), from the archway to the custom of departing seniors leaving treasure behind for the student next to receive their dorm room.
Duncan, ostensibly the main character of the piece, really only serves as a frame story, which is rather daring. The treasure left for Duncan is a stack of CDs, upon which Tim Macbeth has recorded the story of his tragic semester at Irving School. We really actually learn very little about Duncan throughout The Tragedy Paper, since he spends most of his time either listening to Tim's story or thinking about Tim's story. While ordinarily, I might find this framing device frustrating and unnecessary, I like it here because the way that Duncan becomes caught up in Tim's tale the same way I become entangled in a wonderful novel. I thought it was a wonderful sort of metaphor for the process of reading, becoming caught up in the journey of someone else and growing as a result of it, though you have actually been a passive observer.
Tim Macbeth, like all tragic heroes, suffers from a fatal flaw: being too uncomfortable with himself as a result of his albinism. All his life, Tim has been stared at, feared, or pitied because he was born without the pigmentation most people have. He has never been particularly close to anyone outside of his family and resists connection with anyone new, sure that they will only ever see him as an albino, not as a deeper person. Of course, the person most obsessed with his albinism is Tim himself.
From the beginning, it's clear that something awful happened during Tim's one semester (the second semester of his senior year) at Irving School. There's a girl, of course, beautiful and perfect and maybe even interested in him, but, unfortunately, she also has a boyfriend, the most popular guy in school. There were some echoes of Looking for Alaska in this, I think. The mystery of the harrowing event at the end of the year kept me rapt, but was a bit of a letdown when I finally got there, mostly because of the allusion to a literary work I didn't much care for in the first place.
The Tragedy Paper will appear to a certain niche of reader, those who prefer high concept to action. At no point did I feel bored and LaBan sustained my curiosity about the mystery all the way through. LaBan's debut is impressive, and I will likely be reading more of her work in the future.
The fact that I managed to trudge my way through to the end of this novel is more a testament to my misguided faith in the rave reviews this book received than the book itself. Something like that little train going up the hill, I just continued to assure myself that things would get better because so many readers gave it 5 stars! That means it must get better, right? Sadly, no. So, here is my review and yes, this review contains spoilers. Here is my spoiler alert: there isn’t much to spoil. The terrible tragedy that we are waiting for is… well… not much of a tragedy and the part our main character plays in making this awful thing happen is pretty much nonexistent. The book description compared this to Looking for Alaska and 13 Reasons Why. Seriously? Let’s see – it takes place at a boarding school and the main character listens to some recordings of another character’s story. Oh yeah, and it is about teens and is a book. I assume the comparisons are drawn, in part, because the story attempts to build suspense toward a dreaded event that we know is coming. But, it is just not anywhere close to being in the same league. Frankly, comparing it to either borders on false advertisement. The best thing about this book is the concept of the Tragedy Paper assignment. That was actually a great idea for a novel, just not this one. Or, maybe this one after a few more drafts, preferably with more natural dialog, a more fleshed out storyline with some actual things happening and a lot more character development. And when I say character development, I am not suggesting more analysis of motives or personality traits from the unrealistically self-aware characters themselves. I did laugh out loud a few times – but I don’t think the author was trying to be funny, it just happened. My favorite part was how blown away one boy was that the girl he had not seen since school ended for the summer knew that it had been three months since they saw one another and predicted if that happened again – gasp – they would not meet again until December! “He quickly calculated the timing. It had been three months, and yes, it would be December in three more months. He was amazed that she had that information so available.” Wow. Amazing. Almost exactly as amazing as this book.
Ich hab kurz über 3 Sterne nachgedacht, denn das Buch ist stellenweise nett, aber gerade gegen Ende hin fasert es einfach nur aus. Die ganze Zeit über wird auf einen tragischen Moment hingearbeitet, der dann einfach kein so großer Höhepunkt ist. Im Gegenteil. Mir hat eher der Anfang des Buches und die Annäherungen der Figuren gefallen. Die Motivation einiger Charaktere im Buch wurde mir einfach nicht ganz klar.
In the last few years, John Green has kind of become the king of contemporary “realistic” teen fiction. I mean, just look at the furor caused by The Fault In Our Stars. It’s so popular that anyone who dares post a negative review on this site is descended upon by hordes of angry fans who don’t get that someone else not liking something doesn’t have to invalidate your own enjoyment of it.
I love John Green as much as anyone else, but his books often contain many of the same young-adulty elements: a situation that takes parents out of the equation, a predictable social structure in which the nerdish main character falls for a beautiful, borderline manic-pixie It Girl whose It Guy boyfriend is a jerk who doesn't appreciate her, an adherence to traditions and rituals within the teenage community, and an underlying appreciation of academics (usually literature, but once it was math). He didn't invent these tropes, but I definitely associate them with his books.
The Tragedy Paper contains all of these elements, which is why I described the book to several of my friends as an introduction to John Green. And yet, it still feels like its own little beast.
The main character of this book is Tim Macbeth. He’s an albino and, because of that, he’s always been a little bit of an outcast. His parents are moving from Chicago to Italy, so he’s going to get a fresh start by spending the last semester of his senior year at The Irving School, a boarding school in New York whose motto is “Enter here and find a friend.” En route to the school, Tim is stranded at the airport hotel and meets Vanessa, also traveling to Irving. The two connect, but she’s got a boyfriend and Tim assumes that his albinism means he doesn’t have a chance.
Once he’s at Irving, Tim learns about two important school traditions: the Tragedy Paper – a senior English thesis that’s pretty self-explanatory in theme – and the senior Game, which is basically a big blow out planned and executed by a group of “randomly chosen” students who just so happen to be the most popular kids: in this case, it’s Vanessa’s boyfriend, Patrick who is in charge, but because he’s the new kid, Tim is invited to help out.
The book is structured in a sort of roundabout way. It’s actually two stories, Tim’s being relayed to Duncan – an Irving student a year behind Tim – via a collection of CDs Tim burned and left behind in his dorm room as part of another school tradition – leaving a “treasure” for the junior who will inherit your room as a senior. Duncan becomes absorbed in Tim’s story as he struggles to complete his Tragedy Paper assignment and to navigate the scary world of liking a girl. This structure didn’t always work for me, because Duncan was a less interesting character and the asides about how he had to change the CD were awkward transitions. However, Duncan knows how the story is going to end before it even begins – he was present at the climactic event of the book, so Tim’s narration becomes more tensiony as we the reader aren’t sure what it’s building to.
Eh, Duncan’s a bit of a device but it wasn’t all together awful or cloying. It’s my only real complaint about the book, which is ultimately as smart and engaging as anything Green’s put out. And honestly, I was so nervous about where the story was headed that I don’t think my ass unclenched for the entire three days I was reading it.
It's possible that John Green has ruined me for all other YA books.
The Tragedy Paper isn't plot driven nor is it a character driven book. If anything, it's concept driven and unfortunately, both the plot and characters suffer because of it.
Duncan is a high school senior at a prestigious boarding school and has traumatizing memories of the events of the previous year. The previous inhabitant of his bedroom, one of last years seniors, Tim, has left him a stack of CDs in which he narrates the events of last school year so that Duncan can know the entire story. Tim explains, in detail, his insecurities about his albinoism and his obsession ("love") for Vanessa, a beautiful girl dating the most popular boy in school.
The story that Tim tells has all of the literary characteristics of a tragedy and that's the main concept that LaBan plays with in this book. Tim's tragedy directly reflects in Duncan's (the listener's) life and Duncan feels trapped because of it.
LaBan takes an admirable stab at trying to build a work around this concept of tragedy but without a catching plot or well-built characters, the entire thing falls flat. The entire time I kept wondering why I even cared about Tim or Duncan since I barely knew anything about them. I didn't know why Tim was so obsessed with Vanessa and I found it hard to pity their love triangle when Vanessa was written so shallowly.
I mentioned that John Green may have ruined me for all YA novels because though The Tragedy Paper had similar themes as many of John Green's books, Green writes such powerful and emotionally stimulating characters that the characters in this book felt even more flat in comparison.
Tim Macbeth is a bright teenager who has a lot going for him, except for the fact that socially he feels he doesn't fit in since he is an albino. His stepfather, an Irving School alumni, tells Tim that he would fit in at Irving School and convinces him to attend for his senior year since he isn't happy at his current school. This works well for Tim's family since his parents are in the process of moving. On his way to Irving School in New York, Tim finds himself practically stranded at the airport due to snow; thankfully, his mom and stepdad, whose business deals with travel, obtains one of the last hotel rooms. At the airport, he forms a connection with a beautiful girl named Vanessa, who is also traveling to Irving School. They share an innocent night in Tim's hotel room and a friendship blossoms, but for Tim, it was something more. While at Irving School, Tim is starting to get acclimated, but finds himself thinking constantly of Vanessa and their 18 hours together. There's a problem with this though. Tim is the "new guy" at school whereas Vanessa is part of the "cool" crowd and is dating the most popular guy at school. To Tim's surprise, Vanessa still wants to hangout with Tim, on her terms though. The Tragedy Paper is told from Tim's point of view as well as Duncan, a current senior, who is living in Tim's old room at Irving. Duncan is captivated by the tale of Vanessa and Tim as well as their connection to an epic tragedy paper, or senior thesis, all Irving students must write. Elizabeth LaBan's The Tragedy Paper is a serious read that will evoke many emotions in its readers. There's love, loss, friendship, disappointment, and that addicting first taste of young love.
The Tragedy Paper isn't a read that I would normally gravitate to, but I am glad that I did. Tim isn't the usual kind of protagonist that I connect with, but I liked him. He reminded me of many of the underdog protagonists in classic literature; in fact, The Tragedy Paper is reminiscent of Dead Poet's Society, one of my favorite movies. On the other hand, Vanessa drove me nuts. She's the type of character I just love to hate. She uses boys on her own terms and she can't stand up to her super popular and egocentric boyfriend. I hated the fact that she would, at times, use Tim, but LaBan did a really good job portraying the popular girl trying to navigate her way through a relationship/friendship with someone not in her social circle.
One of my favorite aspects of The Tragedy Paper is the fact that the students would have to write this tragedy paper, or senior thesis, for their English teacher. Since I am an English teacher, I could connect with this immediately and loved their classroom discussions of what makes something a tragedy, etc. The English teacher reminded me so much of Robin Williams in Dead Poet's Society. He was one of my favorite characters.
I also enjoyed how Duncan would listen to Tim's story though the CDs that he left him. I, along with Duncan, was glued to Vanessa and Tim's story. I knew things weren't going to end well, and I could see it coming as many events were very predictable, but I just had to know how their story would come to a close. Since the point of view alternated between Duncan and Tim, I found myself being a bit distracted by this as I wanted more of Tim and Vanessa and less of Duncan. However, as the story progressed, I realized that Duncan played more of a role in The Tragedy Paper than I initially thought. Duncan isn't just merely a listener of Tim's tale, but rather a participant towards the end.
LaBan does a stellar job making this story dramatic, tragic, and heartfelt. If you are looking for a dramatic read that has a mystery, first love (without a lot of romance), and some lingering sadness, then check out Elizabeth LaBan's The Tragedy Paper, especially if you are a fan of serious contemporary reads.
The Tragedy Paper is a book that I would have LOVED as a teenager; it is a prime example of my favorite genre at the time: YA books about teens with REAL PROBLEMS. The book opens with Duncan going back to boarding school for his senior year. One of the school's traditions is that seniors from the previous year leave a gift for them in their dorm rooms. While Duncan's friend get a bottle of whiskey, Duncan gets a stack of CD's from Tim, "that albino kid." We are told that SOMETHING TERRIBLE happened last year, SOMETHING AWFUL that Duncan does not want to think about. What happened?!
We don't find out until the final pages, and for all that time in between, nothing happens. Duncan listens to the CD's, which contain Tim's discussion of what happened last school year (very Thirteen Reasons Why). This is odd because Duncan and Tim weren't friends.. we find out that they didn't know each other until THE EVENT. So why does Duncan care so much about Tim's love life? Why is Duncan so riveted by Tim's account of his senior year? I just don't buy it. Nothing even happens in the tapes (um, CD's).. Tim loves Vanessa, but Vanessa has a boyfriend, and SOMETHING HORRIBLE is going to happen..
The thing is, once the EVENT finally occurs (a boarding school prank, very Looking for Alaska), you're left shaking your head. Was that it?! The HORRIBLE THING is such a letdown, such a perfect example of an"anticlimactic" event that I hesitate to use that word.
In The Tragedy Paper, LaBan pulls in details of Looking of Alaska and Thirteen Reasons Why in an attempt to hook teenage readers with a rip-off of their favorite books. I did enjoy that the kids at her boarding school have to write a senior thesis exploring what a tragedy really is (hence the book's title), but other than that minor plot point, this book is boring. Please skip it.
Even though this book sat on my shelf for over a year and even though I felt pinch of guilt for not reading it, now when I finally read it I regret nothing! The day I picked up this book and started reading it was better than any before it.
Reason for that lay in the fact that after a whole semester of reading and discussing Shakespeare I was ready to understand all the jokes here, together with all the concepts and themes presented in his works that could be found here too. We start from the sole idea of tragedy and how it was presented in his plays. It was something to discuss and think about and when the students of Irving School got their final task. It was so interesting when you get to read both Tim's and Duncan's story, which were intertwined but at the same time different.
I loved the switch in narration and the change of the stories, which made me to read this story even faster as I was never bored with it. It was easy to understand Tim and his voice, his fears and troubles. Just the fact that he was albino made him different and he couldn't run away from it. But also I felt for Duncan. I could see that something really bothered him and that there is more to this story, that mysterious moment that hung in the air. It took some time to understand his uneasiness with Tim's story. But when you discover the connection you see why.
Another great thing about this book was that it was not only a tragic story, it was much more. It was a story about ending one chapter in your life, finishing high school and understanding life. It was also a nice romantic story too. Both romantic stories felt real and what I liked the most slow-building.
At the end it was writing and narration that really grabbed me here and kept me turn the pages. I really hope to experience it again someday.
I was so close to just barely liking this book! But even then, it was a slow and extremely boring read. The concept of tragedy could have been so heart-breaking, but no, readers are left with watered-down characters and the most uneventful plot ever. I was left having no feelings for any of the characters, none of whom had any depth. With the premise of the novel centralized around literary tragedy, this novel could have been one of those emotionally draining, world-changing stories! But yeah, it really wasn't. It was flat, boring, and I can't believe I bought this in hardcover.
Furthermore, I can't believe people actually think this is insightful. The dramatic title and ambiguous synopsis is the only thing that suggests profound thought. There is, in my easily supported opinion, no quality to this story. The characters show no depth at all. The relationships are so superficial and anything that actually connects the characters is shallow. Every symbol, foreshadowed event, and anything that would provide this so-called "profoundness" to The Tragedy Paper was plain as day. Vanessa was the most boring love interest, nothing defines her other than that for some reason Tim likes her. Why does he like her exactly? Who knows, all it was to me was one of many badly constructed relationships. And Tim being albino? I mean really, do you have to reinforce the image of snow and concept of Tim being an outcast any more blatantly? I mean, what else makes him an outcast other than the lack of pigment in his skin, because it really wasn't developed at all.
With poor characterization and shallow, blatant use of literary devices - not to even mention the uneventful plot - this novel is a joke in terms of Tragedy. It is obvious, flat, and overrated.
OH.MY.GOD. I can't believe how bad this book was. I came in with mediocre expectations, since both my sisters gave it a 3 or 4 star rating. If I had not been on a vacation and had other book options I would've ended it at 30%. I never got the vibe "Oh I just NEED to know what happens" I got the vibe "I honestly couldn't care less about what happens". The ending was the most disappointing thing ever! I mean, WHAT?!?! BOOOOOO that's what I say to the ending. I was trying to finish this book on the couch, and after every page I couldn't help but groan of boredom. The fact that my sisters gave this a 3-4 stars makes me question their taste in books. If any of you are looking for that perfect beautiful book that you read a page of and instantly fall asleep, this is your winner!
I got really into The Tragedy paper, and consequently ended up speeding through its pages to get to the big reveal at the end. The entirety of the book is spent alluding to this "terrible tragedy" that changed the course of everything, and LaBan did a terrific job creating a need-to-know-what-happened-next type atmosphere. But I have to say, when I finally learned what the tragedy was, it was a major let down. First of all, one of the main characters Duncan spends all of the book feeling guilty about his part in it, but I struggle to even see how he was involved remotely. And then there's the fact that this event had pretty much zero consequences, so I was left feeling like I had just read a book about characters who like to wallow in their undue sell pity. The majority of the book was entertaining, and I enjoyed reading it. The ending just kept The Tragedy Paper from being a great book.
das buch hab ich anfang 2021 schon einmal gelesen & ich weiß, dass ich es direkt nach dem beenden ganz okay fand. aber nicht mehr. und dann konnte ich aber tagelang plötzlich nicht mehr aufhören, darüber nachzudenken. das zentrale thema der handlung ist der begriff der tragödie, deren tragweite und das nichtvergessenkönnen. auch beim zweiten mal lesen merke ich, dass mich das buch nicht so schnell loslässt. und es hat einfach den schönsten buchtitel, finde ich.
I could make some puns about "the real tragedy of this book is blah blah blah" or "how tragic that bloopity bloop de bloop" but honestly? There's nothing in Elizabeth LaBan's "The Tragedy Paper" that hasn't been covered with more depth of feeling and a better sense of the struggles of young adults in works like "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" and "Looking for Alaska" or "Catcher in the Rye" for that matter.
Here we have the story of Tim MacBeth the unnecessarily albino recent transfer to the unrealistically idyllic Irving School and his meandering, common place, perfectly nice but nothing special love for the vapid Vanessa who'd probably be willing to commit to him if only he wasn't so...white? But she's already in a relationship with the repugnant, violent, drunk Paul who she feels so very sorry for because his mother just died and he's not as pale as Tim. She has a reputation to think of guys, come on.
Their story is being told in flashback through a series of CD's Tim has left as a senior gift to Duncan who's inherited Tim's room as the result of a very complex and slightly silly collection of Irving School traditions. Duncan of course has problems of his own and finds himself connecting with Tim through the reliving of his tragic semester at Irving. Yes there are some bland "jokes" about how their names are Macbeth and Duncan. Don't ask me, I didn't write it.
The problem for me here is that nothing that did happen or is happening to these people is interesting. Yes, there's a sort of tragedy that everything is building toward but there's just no tension and all the characters are so blah that its difficult to connect with anyone.
Tim and Vanessa are clearly intended to be seen as some sort of tragic romantic couple but other than being an albino (a character choice that made no sense to me other than to make Tim "cool" for the reader because he's just soooo different) Tim's just a regular guy, maybe a little smarter and more self aware but he's just like, some dude. Vanessa's appeal is even harder to nail down. We're meant to feel that the two have some deep connection that Vanessa just can't bring herself to give into but to me she just comes off as a typical vapid teenage girl more interested in social standing than real human connection. Sad, but not exactly news worthy or new at all for that matter.
I don't think every character in a YA coming of age tale like this has to be Holden Caufield to be interesting but you have to be able to invest in who these people are and what they hope to accomplish or it just doesn't work.
I just didn't care if Duncan was going to work it out with his sweet little cotton candy fluff of a girlfriend or what his connection to Tim really was. And when all is finally revealed? Its not really that big of a deal.
The key for me to really great YA writing is being able to take the typical teenage things like first love, fights with friends, good grades and making it something anyone can connect to at any point in their life on the deepest level possible. A good YA novel touches a teen because they totally get what the protagonists are going through and hits an adult because we remember all that angst and barely containable passion and in some part of our brains we still long for it.
Ultimately this feels like an adult writing about the memory of adolescence. LeBan doesn't seem able to take these characters as far as they really need to go to be real people or really interesting at all. Nothing really tragic happens, though the potential is there. No one does anything totally unforgivable to anyone else or suffers anything they won't be able to overcome. Its like we keep getting close to the fire and feeling of youth only to get tugged bag into the mundane.
So I guess the real tragedy here is that "The Tragedy Paper" just isn't tragic enough.
from the beginning, those first 100 pages or so, they really grab you. honest. for sure, this was going to be a 4/5 book. then i kept reading. now, that's the end of the praise.
blend "the outsiders" with "that was then, this is now". okay? now blend "13 reasons why" with "looking for alaska". got that? okay. so now, what i need you to do is mix "ethan frome" and "a seperate peace" with "dead poets' society".
cool. ready? alright... now be mediocre.
be mediocre in your inventiveness, story arcs and characters.
write a north-eastern book about white kids at a private school, since that's your readership, but make sure the gimmicky conceptual story-within-a-story is solely driving the novel. really. make it so without this crutch, the book is nothing.
avoid plot for a hundred pages, and pray the readers haven't read all the books listed above or ask too many questions, because you're gonna have a lot of fingers pointed at you for borrowing from so many other previous (and better) works and wasting our time with a not-bad-but-not-captivating novel.
If you haven't read any, I mean any, of the books above... you'll give this a 5/5.
I'd recommend this to middle school kids only who might be too young for John Green and haven't read "13 Reasons" or watched "Dead Poets". That's all this books is. You're not missing a thing besides clever narrative hooks which, yes, true, that keep you reading -- but! never pay off in a big way. the tragedy is that the tragedy isn't tragic enough.
After racing through this book today I have some mixed emotions about "The Tragedy Paper." On one hand, I really enjoyed it. The way the story was told was innovative and refreshing. The basic premise of the story is a 17 year old boarding school student receives a set of CDs hidden in his new room at school. The CDs tell the story of the former tenant of his room, a lonely albino student enthralled with a popular girl, and the "tragedy" that befell them. The writing of the book was very compelling, and I was totally sucked into the story. However, I found the ending to be anti-climactic. I really wanted a big POW and I felt the ending was more of a fizzle. I wanted the author to go all out and really blow my socks off. The story was still wonderful and very well-written I just could have used more intensity at the end. I feel like the story deserves it.
3,5* Tohle je jedna z těch krásných, poetických knih, které jsou svým způsobem výjimečné a neopakovatelné. Možná mě tato nepohltila tolik jako jiné, ale i tak to pro mě byl krásný čtenářský zážitek. :)
I wasn't quite sure what to expect when requesting this ARC on Netgalley, but the summary was intriguing, and I was hoping for a bit of YA fare that was different than most.
And boy, did Elizabeth LaBan deliver. In an exceptional debut novel, she explores the theme of tragedy in both literary and emotional contexts. What is tragedy? How is it defined, and is it possible that one person's tragedy is another person's unfortunate accident? What makes a tragic figure?
With crisp and thoughtful writing, the author paints a deep and moving picture of a prestigious high school/boarding school and the young men and women at the center of the book.
Each year, the seniors are assigned a 'tragedy paper' for their English class, like a thesis of sorts, that makes up a big chunk of their final grade. And each year, the incoming seniors worry from the get-go about this paper, some more than others.
Duncan Meade is an incoming senior, and school tradition dictates that each previous year's senior leaves a 'treasure' in their respective room for the next student assigned. When Duncan finds out that his room, the smallest on the senior floor, was previously occupied by Tim Macbeth, the story's unconventional narrator, he's at first a bit bummed out.
Tim Macbeth is an Albino and only attends the Irving School for a single semester in his senior year. There are hints from the get-go that something bad happened, though the reader isn't told any details. Duncan was there, and the event still occupies his mind and guides some of his choices, though again, Elizabeth LaBan delivers the suspense and only hints at things.
In his new room, Duncan finds a letter from Tim, and a bunch of CDs. And three keys.
The book is written from a dual POV. For Duncan, the author chose a limited 3rd person narrative, while for Tim, she uses the CDs and thus the 1st person narrative, to differentiate between the two male MCs. Their voices were distinctly different, and I had no difficulty distinguishing where one ended and the other began.
The author masterfully weaves a suspenseful plot, leading up to 'The Game', a senior year event, planned by the lead senior for the year, who was chosen as the junior officer during the previous year's event. And as the story unfolds, the reader is sucked deeper and deeper into the minds of the young men, both struggling with first love and feelings of inadequacy. The contrasts between the two main players and the choices they make, with Duncan actually thinking about their similarities as Tim's story unfolds, are what made this book so very special and unusual in today's YA world. The author also explores the differences in doing what you know is right versus what you know will make you feel good, as well as following the rules/traditions versus breaking them to suit your own needs or ego.
A well developed supporting cast, including the love interests, the rival (Patrick) as well as the central teacher, Mr. Simon, give additional depth and meaning to the book.
And even if the build-up to the event led me to expect a bit more than what actually happened, I finished this book rather stunned at the brilliantly quiet way in which the author delivered the climax and was left thinking about this book long after I closed it on my Nook. Was what happened to Tim and Vanessa truly a tragedy or just a result of bad choices and circumstances beyond their control? And is Daisy right when she absolves Duncan from thinking what happened is at least partly his fault? Do both of them deserve forgiveness?
If this is the caliber of writing Ms. LaBan delivers, I cannot wait to see what more she has in store for us. I highly recommend this book.
I received a free ARC from the publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return.
It's so complicated to express my feeling toward The Tragedy Paper. To be honest it's the kind of book I generally love. Very simple, no glitz or nonsense things, strong characters, well written and it holds you until the very end. But that very end happens at the very far of the book. As much as you wonder: what was the point?
"Enter here to be and find a friend"
In the first day of his senior year in Irving School, Duncan finds in his bedroom a pile of CDs from Tim Macbeth. A year ago Tim, a 17 years old albino, was a new student and fall for Vanessa, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. Living a clandestine relationship, comes a triangle love, tensions and the Tragdy Paper, the most important assignment of the year. In those records Tim promised Duncan he will find inspiration for his own Tragedy Paper...
When your family name is Macbeth you can't escape one of the most famous Shakespear's work, it is printed in your DNA and one day a tragedy will beat you down. Well that's the feeling I had while reading the book through Mr. Simon, the english teacher. So Tim being not "original" (like he's albino so he is hype, bcbg uhuh being his own style) or even "different" (as super intelligent already created his own compagny at 12 years old) but just special in being an outcast, didn't surprise me. Although I've never remember a book leading by an albino. What I like in Elizabeth LaBan's process, is being an albino doesn't define him, to me it wasn't the physical part but the fact of being rejected his entire life. To be honest the most original thing about Tim was when he records all the sound aroud him with his microphone. Otherwise the scene between Tim and Nathan, the little albino kid at the lower school, definitely explained everything about the context, about being a snowflake:
"I'm a little like snow," he said after a while. "So are you!" "Yes, we are," I said. "And snow is a pretty special thing, I guess."
One of the most intense thing about The Tragedy Paper is the love triangle. For once in my life I enjoyed such a thing since it's controversy. As a reader you can't tell which side you are because of a lack of arguments. (mechanically:) Tim meets Vanessa in an uncommon situation. They have their moment. Then comes life at school and Vanessa with Patrick. Patrick is very confident and probably one of his first motivation in being with Vanessa is her hot body. But Vanessa keeps being secret with Tim. While the two guys are "befrending". Tim is bloody jealoused and wants to get the shit out of Patrick. Vanessa is confused because she doesn't want to hurt anyone (but really she can live with it). Patrick is still as confident as hell. Then the Tragedy Paper. Really I should I've made a diagram, but I'm bad at drawing. The point was there are actions between the three of them until the very end and it doesn't look like some kind of pitiful soap opera.
Finally Duncan. Even if I found his character very difficult to point at. As the other characters, through Tim's telling in the records, Duncan has meaning, has his "crutial moment" by the end of the story, which is epic. But it just wasn't what fascinated me the most, but as the triangle love Elizabeth LaBan made me love alternative point of views. It was well structured and intelligent.
The original part of course is the tragedy paper. When I reached the end of the book I was surprised to find an interview with the author where she explained she had such an intense assignment back in high school. The whole tragedy scenario, the way Shakespear involved, showed The Tragedy Paper isn't an easy-going contemporary young adult book, but with meanings. Debut Elizabeth LaBan amazingly open the new season book of the year 2013, quite The Catcher In The Rye meetinb Looking For Alaska.
I originally started reading this novel mostly due to the fact that the author, Elizabeth LaBan, was coming to our school and I was going to get a chance to go to a workshop during class (I did go, and it was really cool, for anyone who's wondering - Elizabeth LaBan is like, super nice). While I was reading it I heard mixed reviews from most of my friends. The overwhelming message I got from those reviews was that the book was okay - not great, not horrible, but fine. There was a lot of talk about how the climax was kind of a let-down. And I was like, okay, let's see what I think.
So, here's what I think. It was pretty good! Not, you know, amazing but a nice read.
Quick recap before I really go into everything, though: Duncan goes to boarding school and has just gotten his room - basically the worst possible one he can get. It's tiny, cramped, and way in the corner of the hall. And the Irving School has a tradition of seniors leaving a gift in their room for the next person coming in. Duncan gets a set of tapes from Tim Macbeth (and I will say that I adore the Macbeth reference they throw in with the names, although it doesn't really apply to the story in the end), who he has a relation to that he tried to erase from his mind. The story basically follows Duncan's life at school and Tim's as well, through the tapes.
One of the things this book does really, really, well is build up suspense. I spent much of the story really wanting to know what went down between Duncan and Tim, which I'm sure was the intention. The book also did an excellent job of keeping me interested to see how Duncan and Tim knew each other.
I also really liked the premise of 'The Tragedy Paper', the final paper that all seniors have to write. I thought the way it tied into the story was very clever and well thought out.
And while I know that some people didn't think the climax was executed well, I didn't think it was too bad. It didn't make my jaw drop but I honestly thought it was fine. My only real problem with it was that it went by so fast. I felt like the whole book built up to this one moment and it was over in around three pages.
As for other problems, I do have a few. Daisy, for one thing - she's a nice character, but completely underdeveloped. She came in out of the blue, with no explanation to her character or her past with Duncan, or honestly, anything. It was like she was only a character there to fuel Duncan's angst and play the role of his girlfriend, rather than being a developed character with an actual role in the story.
And this is mostly just me, but I didn't find myself truly caring about many of the characters other than Duncan. Tim was, honestly, kind of annoying to me, and I just didn't find myself caring too much about Vanessa. Daisy wasn't developed enough for me to really care about her. So that leaves Duncan, who I actually did really like and feel bad for.
The ending of the book with Duncan's kind-of breakdown and his talk with his teacher was very well done. I really got the sense of Duncan's guilt and his trying to overcome it - basically, I did really like Duncan.
But honestly, I didn't really care for Vanessa's and Tim's romance. It felt kind of weird to me, and I just couldn't really bring myself to care. Even after everything I didn't even blink an eye about the outcome. Maybe that's just me, though.
All-in-all, I thought the book was nice. Nothing that I'd scream praises about in the middle of the street, but it was well-written, the build-up is great, and the story is pretty well done. Overall, it's a good read if you're looking for something a little bit sad.