Author: Alexandra Coutts
Publisher: Mac Teen Books (Farrar Straus Giroux)
Source: Publisher provided ARC
Publication Date: 2015
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Genre: Fiction; Young Adult/Teen Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5
REVIEW: From the moment I saw the title for this piece of YA lit, I was hooked. It’s rare that a YA novel sticks with me as this novel’s premise did. In my experience of this genre, I’d never before run across this idea which is why Alexandra’s second novel (at least by this non de plume) intrigued so much. The reason for this is the story, which follows 17-year-old Tamsen. Tam isn’t like most girls her age. Instead of giggling with her girlfriends or preparing for senior year, she is burying her husband. She married young and was only married a matter of weeks before her beloved Noah’s heart stopped. Suddenly her forever was nevermore. Feeling without a purpose, Tam moves back to her father’s house where she is expected to go back to mundane life by finishing school, but with such a dark cloud over her, will anything ever feel normal again?
Before I get into the details, I will say I really, really liked this hot-off-the-press novel. Sadly, I do look underneath the surface in all of my book reviews and there are some question marks. Tam’s character isn’t the easiest gal to relate too. Partially this is because she is a 17-year-old widow which is a rarity all on its own. The second reason for this is the voice. I felt like she remained on an even keel nearly the entire book – meaning there didn’t “feel” as if there was much fluctuation – either one way or another (despair or change), in the first-person narrative. There is also one other subplot that I did like, but in the interest of being honest, I do think it was pushing the bounds of being “acceptable” simply because of the dangers and scandals that break too often in real life. Beyond that I don’t feel like I can say more because, spoilers!
Though I do have some reservations about this book, I did honestly like it. It’s something I’d pick up again when I’m looking for a quick read and is certainly a novel that knows how to end by putting its best foot forward. Is the entire book perfect? No. In fact, there is a “messy” quality to it that’s beautiful. There is a calm, unflappable maturity to its heroine that’s interesting (the normal teen angst doesn’t apply) and the healing that comes from tragedy is almost therapeutic. As fair warning, this book won’t end in the way normal YA stories do. A few years ago I’d have detested this, but with some distance and growing, I do think the ending Coutts wrote not only best serves the story, more importantly it best serves the characters. It’s the kind of ending, on reflection, we all should wish for. Because of this and numerous other reasons, this novel is a rare kind of gem.
Though it has its share of fault lines, it’s really in the messiness that this book finds its strength and beauty. If you’re looking for a young adult read with a unique agenda, Young Widows Club might be something to look at. It’s got a great set of characters and a whole of potential. It’s the kind of potential that brings the reader to a crossroads where we can imagine any kind of ending we want.
Synopsis: For seventeen-year-old Tam, running off to marry her musician boyfriend is the ideal escape from her claustrophobic high-school life on the island, and the ultimate rebellion against her father and stepmother. But when Tam becomes a widow just weeks later, the shell-shocked teen is forced to find her way forward by going back to the life she thought she’d moved beyond—even as her struggle to deal with her grief is forcing her to reinvent herself and reach out to others in ways she never imagined. – Goodreads
Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary ARC copy of this book for reviewing purposes.