Friday, 30 August 2013

The Tragedy Paper- Elizabeth LaBan

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan is essentially a coming of age tale.  It is a young adult novel, but may also appeal to adults.
Duncan, a student boarding at Irving School, has been allocated the undesirable room at the end of the corridor.  Tradition dictates that every year the previous resident of the room leaves a present for the person moving in.  Outsider Tim has left Duncan a gift of CDs, and as they are played we learn about Tim's infatuation with Vanessa, his experiences as an albino and his involvement in a tragic event... 
The Tragedy Paper is a brilliant story.  Mysterious and intriguing, I found it hard to put down-I just had to know more and reach the conclusion as quickly as possible.  I loved the idea of learning about the past via CD, and thought it a new and interesting way to compose a  dual narrative story. 
Elizabeth LaBan climbs inside Tim and Duncan's minds and I was transported back to being an awkward teen, which actually made my chest tighten with the memories of longing and the desire to 'fit in'.   I am sure adolescents reading The Tragedy Paper would be able to relate to the characters- the popular guy, the 'freak' , a hot girl, an inspiring teacher...all are there, as they are in schools the world over.
As mentioned previously, The Tragedy Paper is a coming of age story focussing on first love and relationships with peers.  Beautifully written and highly readable, I thought this was an outstanding debut novel.  I would definitely recommend this book and will be eagerly waiting more YA novels by Elizabeth LaBan.
The Tragedy Paper is out now, published by Doubleday.

With thanks to Doubleday for providing me with a copy of The Tragedy Paper in return for an impartial review.

I was keen to know more about how Elizabeth LaBan started writing and particularly how The Tragedy Paper came into being.  Here is what she said...

'I recently cleaned out my mother’s apartment to help her downsize to a smaller place, and I realized that I have been writing my whole life. I found a silly book I wrote in third grade called Me, in which I talk in great detail about my love of cats. I found the attempts my friend and I made at creating a cool kid detective character. It was in a big, brown envelope with the words Chopped Suey written in crayon. Inside, though, were examples of a lot of cover designing and not much writing. I found endless love poems, mostly prose poems, that I wrote in high school and college, reminding me about all the relationships that didn’t work out (I can now say thankfully!). It was amazing to see my writing history in one place.
I have also always loved reading. I remember being on a trip with my parents, I must have been eleven or twelve, and I was reading a book about a group of kids who had been kidnapped. I had been forced to leave the book behind so we could go out to dinner, and I could barely stand to sit through the meal. All I could think about was the book and the characters and what was going to happen. There were many others that I couldn’t stop thinking about, too. In fact, I wrote in the acknowledgments of The Tragedy Paper that reading S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and That Was Then, This Is Now truly changed my life and made me want to be a writer. For thirty years I thought about creating a world in the same way she and the other authors who had grabbed me over the years had done.
As far as The Tragedy Paper goes, a number of things came together at once: my agent encouraged me to try my hand at a young adult book; I read, also at my agent’s suggestion, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther; and I started to think about how that famous tale could be modernized. It was about that time that the world of the Irving School started to spring to life in my head. Before I knew it, Tim was traveling to New York during that snowstorm, and Duncan was walking under that archway…'

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