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3.48  ·  Rating details ·  14,311 ratings  ·  2,499 reviews
If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysteriou
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published September 30th 2014 by Dutton Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2014)
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Average rating 3.48  · 
Rating details
 ·  14,311 ratings  ·  2,499 reviews

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Wendy Darling

This story makes a mockery of love, emotional integrity, and mental illness, and it's glamoured by unmagical magical realism, a "sophisticated" literary style, and a twist upon which everything else hinges. I despise feeling manipulated (much as many of the characters in this book would if they had any sense), especially when the plot and writing are not particularly remarkable, and when the characters and relationships are so incredibly shallow and meaningless.

There's an attempt to interjec
i had a very medium response to this book. i'm conflicted about a number of its different elements, annoyed/perplexed by others, but also pretty impressed by the big reveal's ability to genuinely surprise me. however, that initial "pleasantly surprised" feeling morphed into additionally conflicted feelings once i processed the turn, so it's all a jumble of contradictory and confusing feelings.

which means i am in the same emotional state as all the characters in this book, so let's call it a 3.5
May 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: read "The Bell Jar" instead
Shelves: 2014, ya, why-the-hype
It is astonishing how mediocre and immature this book is. Wolitzer is supposedly a writer of some critical acclaim, so how could she write something so poor?

The plot itself is ok I guess - a bunch of students with various psychological problems are learning to deal with them by experiencing their issues in a sort of hypnotic world of Belzhar (really?)

But EVERYTHING about this story is superficial - exploration of grief and guilt, portrayal of first love/obsession and mental illness, even teach
See more reviews at YA Midnight Reads

I originally rated this 2.5 stars but screw it, it's been almost 2 months since I read this and I'm still majorly pissed off. Lowered to 2 stars.

Belzhar is a very difficult book for me to review. I've been sitting here in front of my laptop for more than half an hour just fuming and raging inside because of this book. Because I cannot talk about the cons just yet, let me just tell you guys what this book is about.

This book is about Jam. Jam's full name is Ja
Aug 07, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, ya
3.5 stars Reading this so soon after having read Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar for the first time was an interesting experience. If you can't tell from the title, Wolitzer pulls heavily from Plath's novel, but I wouldn't say this story is necessarily a remake or rip-off of the original.

In Belzhar, we follow Jam Gallahue, a sixteen year old girl who is sent to a school for students with 'issues,' whether they suffer from emotional, physical or psychological trauma. On her first day at The Wooden B
Jen Blair
Jun 14, 2014 rated it did not like it
Forced, predictable, patronizing, trite. Just no. I have never been so disappointed in an author. I kept reading, hoping she would redeem herself. Nope.
Jun 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc, own
It took me months to get through this one, I kept forgetting I was even reading it, so let's just say it wasn't a memorable read for me. It is unique, don't get me wrong, but I just didn't really care about any of these characters. Then when the magical element got introduced, it made the book even less interesting, not more as I had hoped.

Ok so let's start with this premise. After her boyfriend dies, Jam gets sent to boarding school for troubled teens, and in one of her classes she's given a jo
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Incredible. I inhaled this. It is like a dream. It is LITERALLY like a dream, and like a dream you cannot put it down. Sad, fascinating, funny, profound, real.
If you’re already skeptical about a person someone being in deep, dark mourning lasting a year over someone they knew for only a few weeks then this is definitely not going to be a book for you. Although normally that would put me off I really, really wanted this book to work. Considering Wolitzer is well established in adult literary fiction, I suppose I figured she was likely to have a shot at creating a truly wrenching story of lost love even if that love was so brief. There were a couple of ...more
Nov 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5! I was sent this book by Penguinteen in exchange for an honest review.

You know those books where you just go into them expecting ehhh, but come out of them like "holy heck this was amazing, and changed my mind set," yeah, well this was one of those books for me.

I found out this novel is greatly inspired by Sylvia Plath's book Bell Jar, which I have not read, but now really really want to.

We follow, Jam, a young girl whose first love died. She’s struggling with her situation, and is put in
Nov 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teen
Belzhar is a not so well cloaked code name invented by a small group of high school students attending a boarding school for traumatized teens. The writer chosen for this group to study is Sylvia Plath. The students are in a special class together where one must be personally selected by the teacher to attend. It’s an English class that focuses on only one author per semester, and is only a semester long. Each student is given an antique journal to write in twice a week as part of the requiremen ...more
May 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
BELZHAR read like a book that someone who "thinks" YA sounds like. And what I mean by that is it's repetitive and there's a lot of unnecessary dialogue that tells rather than shows instead of believing in the intelligence of the reader, which offended me as a fan of the genre. I sped through this in one day as I didn't feel a particular connection to the narrator or other students, things got wrapped up way too nicely considering, and certain tropes happened as well as a "twist" inserted that se ...more
Elyse  Walters
Sep 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A terrific Teen story!

I inhaled it!

Realities we would prefer to avoid, or minimize, are a part of life.

In "Belzhar" we read about a group of kids who learn to face painful losses with courage, grace, clarity, and wisdom.
An exceptional teacher --and community, this story has heart-soul-and is deeply satisfying!
Chelsea (chelseadolling reads)
Mar 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.75 stars. For some reason I thought I had heard bad things about this so I didn't think I was going to like it, but I actually ended up rather enjoying it! Plus it may be just me, but I didn't see the ending coming at all. I'll definitely read more things by Meg Wolitzer in the future. ...more
Larry H
Oct 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'd rate this 4.5 stars.

You know, I thought this book was pretty fantastic. A little implausible? Sure, but I didn't feel like that lessened its appeal or emotional pull.

Jamaica "Jam" Gallahue is reeling from the death of her boyfriend, English exchange student Reeve. Even though they were only together for 41 days, their feelings for each other were so intense, and Jam is unable to cope with her grief, which upsets her family and alienates her closest friends. All she wants to do is relive thei
Jul 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Gonna hafta put my Meg-crush aside for this one...

Though the core story (five troubled teens who attend a school in rural Vermont are hand selected for a "Special Topics in English" class focusing on Sylvia Plath, and find out truths about themselves thanks to the efforts of an enigmatic matronly teacher and her trippy journal-writing assignment) is at times super engaging and fun to read, Ms. Wolitzer really only hits her narrative stride 2/3rds of the way through; thus I found myself repeatedl
Pandemic rereads #2*

This is the story of the worst book I love.

The first time I started reading Belzhar, I didn't seriously intend to finish it. In fact, I was reading it as a joke, because I had heard a lot about how bad it was. I expected to read a sample, laugh at how terrible it was, and move on. Instead, I connected with it almost instantly. I found myself interested enough to keep reading. And I finished it, and I had to admit to myself that I'd really liked it. There were parts I'd read b
Mackie Welch
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ya
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Suzie Smith
Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing

I just finished reading Belzhar, and I am devastated. Not because of the ending, or the story itself, but because the book that was getting me through this hellish week, that spoke to me in so many different ways has come to an end. Let me give you some background. I am not a reader, and you will rarely see me reading… at least not in public or for fun. I'm a slow reader which makes me very insecure and less motivated to read. But, after being slightly reluctant to reading this book, I decided,
Aug 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Funny - I just looked at a bunch of reviews about this book on Goodreads - and was actually surprised to find so many people that DIDN'T like it!!!!!!
I loved this book! Especially knowing that it was written for teens. The ending was probably a bit too neat and tidy to be a great ending for a similar adult book....but it is often a relief to have a neat and tidy ending! Sometimes, little things that would kind of bother me in a different book, I made allowances for because this book wasn't actua
Julie Ehlers
I can’t quite decide how I feel about Belzhar. I was excited about the boarding school/Sylvia Plath themes and was looking forward to seeing how Meg Wolitzer handled her first YA novel, but for the first half I was frustrated and bored. Our heroine, unforgivably named “Jam,” is about as colorless and personality-free as it’s possible for a character to be, and most of her fellow students aren’t much better. The book keeps telling us how smart and complex they all are, but I just wasn’t seeing it ...more
This wasn't difficult to read or anything; I moved through it pretty quickly. I thought it would at the very least end up being just an okay book. But I feel like I got nothing out of this. I can't see teens enjoying this. I really disliked what it was when we find out really happened. And oddly, I could actually relate to some of what Jam experiences, but then she ruined it with the "twist" - which I had already guessed. And again - just so much telling, all the way through. Maybe this could ha ...more
Jennifer Mathieu
I devoured this in one day after being fortunate enough to pick up an ARC at the Texas Librarian Association Conference. It's impossible to put down. I hesitate to give much information about it for fear of spoiling it, but Wolitzer has created a profoundly moving story that will live on in my mind for a long, long time. The characters are fully developed and believable misfit teens, and the plot's twists and turns had me breathless. Just a delicious, wonderful read about trauma and recovery, fr ...more
Sep 30, 2015 added it
I appreciate what Wolitzer has to say about the past, how holding on to a memory or an event and not moving on keeps us from fully living. The premise is interesting, and I quickly turned the pages to discover the big secret of the novel (I guessed incorrectly. (view spoiler)). However, the story didn't delve as deeply into character devel ...more
Mar 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is The Girls of No Return meets And We Stay in the best way possible. I love this story about (view spoiler) and the power of literature, of words, of writing, and of believing in things you do and do not have control of.

My one criticism is that in the final two chapters -- the second-to-last especially -- Wolitzer gets too on-the-nose. It feels a bit rookie YA, explaining The Great Meaning Here to the readers who will have gotten it because they're smart e
Nov 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ya
Meg Wolitzer is one of my favorite authors. I’ve loved every book she’s scribed except this one. Perhaps it’s the YA genre; perhaps it’s the break from reality fiction in which she reigns superior. She does tell a story and writes well. I felt this novel was not only predictable; it was not very creative.

It’s a story about a boarding school for “emotionally fragile children”. The protagonist is sent there after an unsuccessful romance that carried her into depression. Jam, the protagonist, is pl
Mar 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
I received an ARC from Netgalley.

I can't believe this is written by the same woman who wrote The Interestings. The character development in Belzhar is - well, there isn't any. I felt no attachment to any of the characters. They are poorly drawn and have no depth. The dialogue - where do I begin? I cringed so many times. It was completely forced and teens DO NOT speak that way. I'm not sure anyone does. So much telling - zero description. Forced metaphor. It's rushed and I'm still not sure what t
Mar 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 3-star
I picked this book up in an airport over two years ago, never having heard of it. I instantly started it, and while I loved the writing style I remember having rather mixed feelings. I decided to revisit it to see whether I wanted to keep it or unhaul it (since it is only a three star I settled on unhaul, though it does have lots of things I like about it).

This follows a teenage girl named Jam Gallahue. After her boyfriend dies, Jam is utterly distraught. Her parents decide to send her to a boar
Lilith Black Bee
Oct 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
Let's say 2.5 ⭐
Nothing extremely wrong with it beside the things happening too fast and those teenagers, especially Jam!, figuring things out in the blink of an eye. Otherwise, a meh book.
Jay G
Feb 27, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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3.5/5 Stars

After being unable to cope with the death of her boyfriend Reeve Maxfield, Jam Gallahue is sent to the Wooden Barn, a boarding school for troubled teens. Upon arriving, Jam is chosen to be apart of a class called Special Topics in English that is invite only. When Mrs. Q assigns their first journaling assignment and Jam begins to write in the red leather notebook provided, s
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Meg Wolitzer is the New York Times–bestselling author of The Interestings, The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, The Position, The Wife, and Sleepwalking. She is also the author of the young adult novel Belzhar. Wolitzer lives in New York City.

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