Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Publisher: Children's Simon and Schuster UK
Released: 1st of October 2014
"I was sent here because of a boy. His name was Reeve Maxfield, and I loved him and then he died, and almost a year passed and no one knew what to do with me."
A group of emotionally fragile, highly intelligent teenagers are mysteriously picked for Special Topics English, tasked with studying Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and keeping a journal.
Each time the teens write in it they are transported to a miraculous other world called Belzhar - a world where they are no longer haunted by their trauma and grief - and each begins to tell their own story.
What I Have To Say
This didn't blow me away as much as I think it did other people. I'd heard good things about it, so I was prepared for something amazing.... but it fell a bit flat for me. It's a great story and Reeve aside I liked the characters and the idea behind it all. There was tension in all the right places and I did really enjoy it.
The only thing that I can really pinpoint that put me off the whole thing was Reeve. He just felt like a stereotype British boy rather than a proper character. He liked Monty Python and Manchester United and wanted to go to Oxford. And the author was pointing out ever little place where the accent was different. Admittedly a real girl falling in love with a guy from a foreign country would possibly notice these things, but it just felt like she was constantly trying to remind the reader that he was British. It was unneeded.
I will say this about the book though. I showed mental health well. Especially the main character, who I won't say too much about because of later reveals, but I felt that those reveals were needed in the genre of mental health genre (can we call it a genre yet? It's definitely starting). There's a lot of things about mental health that people see as being "attention seeking" or "overreacting" and I do think that showing these things in fiction for what they are, devastating illnesses that affect a lot of people, is the best way to start.
If you don't mind overly stereotypical Britishness, read this book.