We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
4 out of 5 stars
Contemporary YA is not really my genre. And it’s fairly rare that any book in that genre catches my attention. For me to want to read it there has to be something particularly interesting or special about the plot/style/narrative. There just has to be something about it.
And, to be honest, most of the YA books out there can’t really keep that kind of promise. Which is okay. I’m in my thirties now (oh well, writing that down hurt a bit) and these books are definitely not written for me. They are not supposed to speak to me in any way. However, from time to time there are a few gems to find in that genre.
One of those gems is We Are Okay by Nina LaCour.
It’s the story of Marin, who we meet as a lonely college girl who seems to have left her hometown and her friends and family behind because of something or other that happened, which she doesn’t want to talk about. It’s all quite mysterious for the first part of the novel and I’m not going to reveal anything in this review.
The narrative goes back and forth between the past and present and it is done in such a structured and well-written way that I can’t seem to decide which I liked better. LaCour makes you want to keep reading. At first, because you want to know the reasons for Marin’s escape and her sadness. But then you keep going because you actually feel for her and hope that her story will come to a happy ending.
And that is what most YA contemporary novels lack, in my opinion: sincerity and authenticity. Yes, some of Marin’s actions are quite angsty and over the top; but still, they are believable behaviour for a teenage girl who has pretty much left everyone she loved behind.
Another thing that makes We Are Okay stand out is that it’s not plot driven at all and that it relies heavily on language. Nina LaCour has a beautiful way of describing feelings and memories. Here’s an example:
“It’s a dark place, not knowing.
It’s difficult to surrender to.
But I guess it’s where we live most of the time. I guess it’s where we all live, so maybe it doesn’t have to be so lonely. Maybe I can settle into it, cozy up to it, make a home inside uncertainty.”
Also, that love scene on the beach is one of the most sincere, realistic, and touching things I’ve ever come across in a YA book. Simply beautiful.
To me, this is a book that shows that its author takes her readers seriously. There’s no dumbing down, no simplifying of matters or feelings. I love it when YA literature is intelligent and honest!
Also – what a cover!