January 25, 2015


Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Teen Fiction
2014 Penguin Young Readers Group
Finished on December 18, 2014
Rating: 2.5/5 (Fair)


Publisher’s Blurb:

"Wolitzer has imagined a world for young readers that celebrates the sacred, transcendent power of reading and writing." —The New York Times Book Review

A PW Best Book of 2014

There’s a place where the lost go to be found.

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, signed up for an exclusive, supposedly life-changing class called Special Topics in English that focuses—only and entirely—on the works of Sylvia Plath.

But life isn’t fair. Reeve has been gone for almost a year and Jam is still mourning.

When a journal-writing assignment leads Jam into a mysterious other world she and her classmates call Belzhar, she discovers a realm where the untainted past is restored, and she can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But, as the pages of her journal begin to fill up, Jam must to confront hidden truths and ultimately decide what she’s willing to sacrifice to reclaim her loss.

From New York Times bestselling author Meg Wolitzer comes a breathtaking and surprising story about first love, deep sorrow, and the power of acceptance.

It’s always helpful, as a bookseller, to have a few new teen books read before the holidays. After reading several glowing reviews for Meg Wolitzer’s Belzhar, I decided to give it a try. I was immediately drawn into the story, but never got that magical feeling you get when reading a great novel. I grew tired of the drama between Jam and Reeve, in their newly discovered world, and I only continued reading out of simple curiosity. I also didn’t care for the plot twist at the end of the novel, which left me feeling somewhat manipulated.

Final Thoughts:

There are many readers (young and old) who loved this book but, unfortunately, I am not one of them. The lack of character development, the unbelievable dialogue, and the feeble attempt at magical realism left me cold and disappointed. I also recently listened to a large portion of Wolitzer’s novel, The Interestings, but after several hours I decided to call it quits, even after giving it a second chance when the first time didn’t grab me. It may be safe to say that this author isn’t for me.


  1. I saw that you had read this one and wondered what you thought. The premise sounded interesting to me, plus I think I have a copy of THE INTERESTINGS on my Kindle. I'll probably try this one and see what I think. I've tried getting into THE INTERESTINGS a couple of times and it hasn't grabbed me yet.

    1. Isn't it funny how we both had problems getting interested in The Interestings? Not too interesting, eh? ;) This one wasn't terrible or I wouldn't have finished, but it certainly wasn't as good as The Fault in Our Stars or Eleanor and Park.

  2. Aww, too bad! The Interestings was a favorite last year and I loved Belzhar, too. Hoping to read The Wife sometime this year.

    1. You'll have to let me know what you think of The Wife. Maybe I'll love it if you don't. ;)

  3. I haven't read anything by Wolitzer, nor is she on my list at this time. Which is not to say that I wouldn't try one of her books if the opportunity arises, but I'm not sure it would be this one. I want great characters and good dialogue!

    1. Well, if you find one you love, let me know. I've pretty much given up on her at this point.

  4. First of all, what a breathtaking header!

    Secondly, I began this book and actually liked the beginning. But, then it was due at the library before I could get much farther. I'll take your word for it that it lacked depth. Also, YA books are not usually my favorite genre in the first place.

    Did you love The Long Winter? This year the winter has been so much less dreadful than last year, but I will always have a place in my heart for that novel.

    1. Thanks, Meredith. It was shot from my mom's neighborhood trail that I walk on at least twice a day while I'm visiting her in Oregon. I think I've taken close to a million photos from that same vantage point over the years. ;)

      I liked the beginning of this book, too, but then it began to disappoint me. I think you'd be safe by skipping it.

      Yes, I loved The Long Winter! I have one more book to review and then I'll write my thoughts about this wonderful classic. I'm so glad I decided to give it another read this month. Thanks for the inspiration!


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