SUMMARY: It follows the story of Tim Macbeth, a seventeen-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is “Enter here to be and find a friend.”
A friend is the last thing Tim expects or wants—he just hopes to get through his senior year unnoticed. Yet, despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “It” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy.
To Tim's surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, but she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone ever finds out. Tim and Vanessa begin a clandestine romance, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.
Jumping between viewpoints of the love-struck Tim and Duncan, a current senior about to uncover the truth of Tim and Vanessa, The Tragedy Paper is a compelling tale of forbidden love and the lengths people will go to keep their secrets.
REVIEW: Truthfully, I wasn't really sure what to expect when I picked up The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan. Forbidden love isn't usually an angle I tend to spring for, since a lot of the misconceptions and angst can be cleared up almost right away if you were honest from the start. But I digress.
Initially, due to Ms. LaBan's naming scheme and the dual POVs between Tim and Duncan, who are hinted at to have had some sort of weird interaction before the book begins, I thought that The Tragedy Paper was going to be some sort of rewrite of Macbeth, which would have been cool. Instead I realized that while there are a few Macbeth jokes here or there, The Tragedy Paper actually has more parallels to another classic that I read for class - Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome, which is just as cool, if you ask me.
Not to give away the book, but with Tim and Vanessa stepping into loose roles of Ethan and Mattie, the constant allusions to heavy winter snow and "the accident", and the senior year sledding activity, it's really hard to ignore the same themes that both Tragedy Paper and Ethan Frome follow, especially with how "cold" everything feels, and how Tim (or Ethan) feels so miserable and trapped and thinks that Vanessa (or Mattie) could be his key to being happy.
As an albino, Tim has some really high walls up because he's lived his life being stared at and made fun of. But after a chance encounter with Vanessa at the airport, she brings a sense of color and freedom he's never really felt before. Except Vanessa already has a boyfriend and he'd totally kick Tim's butt. Sometimes I cringed at Tim's social awkwardness because he's just so transparent about his wanting Vanessa - guy's never heard of a poker face. But overall, Tim is a steady narrator and a likable guy. You can't help but feel for him, even if you'd wish he'd stop moping so much and let himself enjoy things and let people other than Vanessa be his friend. While Duncan is the second narrator and his own story going on, I found myself really looking forward to hearing Tim whenever it wasn't his chapter, trying to race ahead to find out what happened to Tim and Vanessa, and what happened between Tim and Duncan.
I know a lot of people compared The Tragedy Paper to Thirteen Reasons Why, and I guess it's a fair enough comparison, especially with the use of tapes/CDs to tell a story in retrospect, but I'd also recommend picking up Looking for Alaska, Paper Covers Rock, and Ethan Frome. Overall a great read, not too heavy on the romance, and a great character study.
If you liked these books, pick up The Tragedy Paper:
Have you read The Tragedy Paper, Buzzers?