Review: The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan

When Duncan Meade enters his senior year at the esteemed Irving School his spirits are low and his expectations are lower. After an entire summer away, he still can’t manage to sway his thoughts from the disastrous events of the cold February night of his junior year when a traditional secret party went from harmless to heartbreaking in the blink of an eye. Everyone at Irving remembers Tim Macbeth, the albino boy who transferred in to finish his senior year among them. Everyone's heard the rumors of his surreptitious relationship with Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of the school’s star athlete. But no one knows the whole story of what really went on, or the events that lead to the terrible incident at the senior party. Those details are gone - until Duncan finds something special left behind in his room. It’s a gift from Tim: the whole story. As Duncan unravels the threads of Tim’s fateful senior year he struggles with the weight of his own: most notably the Tragedy Paper, a staggering and historically difficult thesis challenge delivered by Irving’s fiercely dedicated senior English teacher, Mr. Simon. Together, as Duncan and Tim relive the events of the previous year and face down their demons, they’ll plant the seed for a Tragedy Paper that will go down in the Irving School’s history.

Elizabeth LaBan’s debut novel is a whirlwind of themes and emotions, culminating into a quietly explosive story that will provoke its reader from the first pages until the very end. Through two separate focuses – alternately Duncan’s and Tim’s – LaBan weaves the struggles of two very different young men into one corresponding story, meeting together at the source of the novel’s elusive suspense. The author’s ability to nurture The Tragedy Paper’s story into a well-calculated mystery with a host of supporting themes is triumphant, to say the least; I was drawn in easily and without fail. There wasn’t a moment when I felt I had predicted how things would work out, partly because the story itself is compelling in every scene, entertaining the reader in the present while encouraging a nearly palpable energy of anticipation as the mystery starts to unravel. The beguiling mystery of the book is supported by a captivating love story and an examination of one teenager's struggle for self-worth. The foundation of The Tragedy Paper and its beautiful execution are further emboldened by the remarkable characters LaBan has created to tell its tale. The passion of Tim’s plight to finally fit in, to no longer be seen as the albino boy, is intensely felt. Duncan, too, strikes a chord with the reader through his desire to escape from the awful events he witnessed. From the kind yet enigmatic Vanessa to her selfish boyfriend Patrick, and even the school’s colorful faculty, The Tragedy Paper is brought to bolder and brighter life.

The art of storytelling and of creating a memorable cast are all signs of a terrific talent; yet, LaBan takes The Tragedy Paper one step further. At the depth of the novel she infuses an intellectual and philosophical significance that further beguiles her reader, an examination of words and meanings that transcends the literary experience to encourage the reader to think deeply and revel in the limitless possibilities of words. As a result, The Tragedy Paper is absolutely a triumphant book among the vastly growing Young Adult genre that will work its magic on readers for a very long time.

Title: The Tragedy Paper Author: Elizabeth LaBan Genre: young adult, contemporary romance, drama Publisher: Random House | Knopf Books for Young Readers Release date: January 8, 2013 Source: Engelman and Co. (C/O) Buy the book: Amazon | Kindle | Barnes & Noble Connect with the author: Website | Twitter

The Tragedy Paper