Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: And We Stay

Title: And We Stay
Author: Jenny Hubbard
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: January 28th 2014
Source: Netgalley & Delacorte Press


Four and a half stars, rounded up.


Emily Beam is a girl who has a lot of soul-searching to do. Her boyfriend Paul threatened her at gunpoint in their school library, before turning it on himself and ending his life. In order to help her cope with the life that is unraveling around her, Emily is sent to a private boarding school in the hometown of fellow poet Emily Dickinson- Amherst, Massachusetts. Writing her poetry helps her figure things out, but the boarding school comes with its own set of both challenges and inspirations that she must encounter, harnessing her inner Dickinson.

This book is one of the few that I feel that I will read over and over again. It is written in both verse and prose, and Jenny Hubbard blends the two in an expert manner.

First, let's talk about the verse. Set in the 90s, protagonist Emily Beam uses her poetry and writing to express what she's going through in the months after Paul's death. The chapters in this book are divided up by Emily's poems. More than just a nice reprieve from the prose of the story, these poems were beautiful. My personal favorite was "Absinthe", and I would like a copy to hang on my wall, if we're being honest. In addition to the character's poetry, we are also given snippets and poems by her spirit-poet, Emily Dickinson. As a fan of hers in the first place, this was nice to include as well.

And then there's the prose. The gorgeous, gorgeous prose. I will tell you one thing: Jenny Hubbard knows her way around the English language. Her writing is incredibly poetic and almost dreamy. Though the entire novel has an air of sadness and grief about it, Hubbard manages to detail the settings and events in her story quite vividly. It was enough to suck me in, and I read it in one go. This book is written in both third person past tense, and third person present tense, depending on if it's narrating Emily's former experiences at her school, or her current ones in Amherst. This is the only real flaw I had with the book- I dislike present tense. It's nothing personal against Hubbard, she did it well. It's just a personal preference. Otherwise, Hubbard strums up a wide variety of emotions in this one little book. I felt periods of monumental sadness, more fleeting moments of happiness or intrigue or surprise. My feelings got a work out, for sure.

It's true that I connected to this book because I consider myself a writer of poetry, but the main reason why I found this novel so inexplicably enchanting is the fact that I attended school in Amherst. More specifically, UMass. I had to walk past Emily Dickinson's house on my way into town to get mail or coffee, or even school books. So when Emily Beam visits, or walks past, or stops for a smoke on the bench across the street, I feel like I am there with her, because I have been. I used to go for late night smokes, same as her. And when I did, I also found myself near to Emily Dickinson's house. Emily Beam is a character that I connect strongly with, and it made a world of difference.

And one final topic- look at that cover. Just look at it. Stunning.

And We Stay is a book that I have no doubt I will need to buy to put a physical copy on my shelf. I recommend it to fans of poetry, or those who prefer their young adult books to address gritty, adult topics like suicide and abortion. If you don't enjoy poetry: YOU WILL NOT ENJOY THIS BOOK. Thank you so much to Netgalley and Delacorte Press for my copy in exchange for an honest review.


  1. Wonderful review! I only want to read this book A LOT! And your review has only made my need stronger, I have a MIGHTY NEED!