We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Digital Audiobook narrated by Jorjeana Marie
Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers on February 14, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, LGBTQ, Young Adult
Length: 236 pages or 5 hours, 37 minutes
Goodreads • Amazon • Barnes & Noble • Book Depository • IndieBound
Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.
I’m glad I read We Are Okay because it was a good-to-read book. However, it’s not a memorable book.
There are scenes, particularly at the beginning of this novel, that stood out to me aesthetically. Marin sitting in her desk chair at the top of her dorm building, staring out the window at the empty expanse below. The pottery shop just as the storm was about to hit. There are nuances in the writing that were quite good. Generally speaking, I thought Nina LaCour’s writing style was good. She kept the pacing very consistent, and the book was the right length. The story only lasts the course of three days, but it’s rare now to see YA contemporary under 350 pages, even if a lot of it is drivel, so I appreciate her concise storytelling style.
Outside of the style and rhythm of the book, there’s a little less to be excited about.
We Are Okay tells the story of how Marin ran away after being left alone and feeling betrayed. She’s depressed, and questioning everything about her life. Rather than reconcile the truth with the lies she’s been fed, she opts to disappear and remake herself in New York at college while half-heartedly fighting her depression and grief. I found Marin’s motives a little weak for the extremity of her actions. She has problems, and it is sad, but the lengths she goes to in order to make this story tick are quite a lot and very well-orchestrated for someone who is as deep in shock as she appears to be. This may be my own ignorance talking, but when the “big reveal” came, I was neither surprised or impressed.
As far as characterization goes, Marin is… … well, she just is. She’s so walled off to everything – including the reader – that it difficult to develop an emotional attachment to her and be invested in her story. Additionally, she’s nothing new. A girl who is a bonafide orphan and raised by her grandfather is a trope we’ve seen again and again and again. I blame Heidi. I’ve grown to have such an appreciation for parents in YA books, because the message still seems to be that you can only have adventures if your parens are dead? Because it takes that much emotional trauma to make a strong enough character? Bleh.
The ending is very cheesy and very fairytale to me, but I think other readers will enjoy it. I was actively appreciating that LaCour seemed to be going for a not-perfectly-happy-ending because it seemed right for Marin. Not enough time passed between Mabel’s arrival and the teary-eyed ending to flow correctly within the parameters set by Marin’s character. It’s full of heart, though, and I can appreciate that.
We Are Okay is probably not a book I would read again, and it’s likely no one I will think over for a long time. I appreciated individual scenes and Nina LaCour’s writing style is actually quite lovely, but there was nothing in this story to make me fall in love. This is a good one for those who enjoy the sweet, sad contemporaries.
Would you ever run away from home and start a new life? When I was younger I used to think about this all the time. Then I’d give up because of money… what about you? Tell me what keeps you from starting over like Marin did in the comments!