Belzhar

by Meg Wolitzer

Jam Gallahue is still devastated a year after the death of her boyfriend. At a loss... read more

Jam Gallahue is still devastated a year after the death of her boyfriend. At a loss for how to help her, Jam’s parents send her to The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in Vermont for “emotionally fragile, highly intelligent” teens. Here, Jam receives one of five highly coveted spots in an exclusive class, Special Topics in English. The class focuses on the works of one author each semester — Sylvia Plath for Jam and her classmates — and requires that students write in a special journal. Jam soon discovers that writing in the journal transports her to the time and place just before the terrible events that caused her depression and isolation. This surreal experience is shared by all of her classmates — each returning to that moment before their lives changed, a time when they felt content and safe. The class members begin to meet secretly to discuss their journaling experiences, which they clandestinely call “Belzhar” after Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar . As the end of the semester looms, and with it the end to the journaling, each must confront his or her trauma and find a way to heal. Superior writing carries the narrative and allows for easy suspension of disbelief in a book that is sure to resonate strongly with many teens. (Age 13 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2015

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