Book Review: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

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Title: We Are Okay

Author: Nina LaCour

Number of Pages: 234

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Rating: B-

Recommended?: Yes


 

Marin is raised from early childhood by her grandfather after her mom dies in a surfing accident, and they two of them have a amiable, if somewhat formal relationship with an odd sense of emotional distance and a lot of emphasis placed on privacy. As a young woman, Marin and her best friend Mabel become lesbian lovers and are filled with excitement and hope for the future, but everything changes when Marin’s grandpa dies and Marin abruptly leaves town without saying goodbye to anyone and refuses to answer Mabel’s calls. It’s only when Mabel shows up at Marin’s dorm during the college holidays that Marin finally finds the strength to discuss what happened that caused her to flee from everything she had ever known.

 

I didn’t know much about this YA novel when I checked it out from the library, and I honestly think it was the cover art that grabbed my attention more than anything I had read about the actual plot. I liked Marin’s character well enough, but I felt she lacked something. Come to think of it, I felt that both her and Mabel had a slightly bland quality. Marin’s sexuality and her passion for books and literature were well-defined and I liked her- there was just something that made it hard to feel strongly about her.

 

For one thing, I didn’t feel that either of them were particularly flawed, Marin’s abandonment of everybody in her old life was irresponsible, but it was more a way to get the plot going than anything else. I thought the inclusion of Mabel getting a boyfriend after Marin left was interesting, I really thought she would turn out to just be a lesbian who ended up dating a guy and denying her true feelings, but I was left with the impression that she was actually bisexual. I felt like that could have made an interesting discussion between the two young women but it was pretty much just subtext.

 

I was also glad that Mabel and Marin didn’t end up having sex when Mabel visited Marin’s university and they ended up sharing a bed in the groundskeeper’s house, because I definitely thought that was the direction things were going in. One of the things I liked best about the book was Marin and her grandfather’s relationship, it wasn’t all good or all bad and there was something that felt very real about it. Unfortunately, the big reveal about Marin’s grandfather near the end of the book (no spoilers) was probably my least favorite part of the story.

 

I hated how the author didn’t really provide his actions with any motivation except that he ‘wasn’t right in the head.’ This pat explanation seemed more like a plot device than anything else, and it didn’t feel like his psychological issues evolved organically. They just popped up when they were needed to cause conflict, and I was left feeling like the whole thing could have been handled better. Overall We Are Okay was an enjoyable read, there was a lot of angst but overall I thought the heroine’s internal drama was handled well. I don’t think it was memorable enough to strongly recommend, but it kept my attention throughout and did a nice job of portraying the joy and heartbreak of relationships, both romantic and familial.

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