The Tragedy Paper
by Elizabeth Laban
Summary: Tim Macbeth is a 17-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is, “Enter here to be and find a friend.” Tim does not expect to find a friend; all he really wants to do is escape his senior year unnoticed. 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, and she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone finds out. Tim and Vanessa enter into a clandestine relationship, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.
The story unfolds from two alternating viewpoints: Tim, the tragic, love-struck figure, and Duncan, a current senior, who uncovers the truth behind Tim and Vanessa’s story and will consequently produce the greatest Tragedy Paper in Irving’s history.
I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Tragedy Paper was in interesting contemporary YA story. Duncan arrives at Irving for his senior year, only to be assigned the room of previous senior, Tim, the albino boy. Tim leaves Duncan his story in the form of CD’s, which Duncan listens to. The story starts to have an effect on Duncan, but the reader isn’t given any details about their connection to each other.
Most of the book is written from Tim’s point of view, as Duncan spends a lot time listening to his story. It was obvious something happened at some point during Tim’s senior year, something Duncan clearly remembers in his own junior year and is having an impact on his personality. Because I was waiting to find out what the thing was, the major event that seemed to define Duncan and Tim, The Tragedy Paper reminded me a lot of Looking for Alaska by John Green. In the same way that I was reading Looking for Alaska and wondering what event Before was, I was anxiously waiting for the IT moment in The Tragedy paper. The actual events aren’t similar, but the anxiety and curiosity I felt while reading was similar.
The book was well written and descriptive, while also cryptic and vague when it had to be. I liked the way the author was able to intertwine the lives of Duncan, Tim, and the tragedy paper theme. All the events connected in some way to help the characters better understand life and I loved it. I also liked that the main character was albino. I found it interesting, since I don’t know much about what it might be like to be albino. My curiosity was piqued and I liked that Tim’s struggles were unique, yet ultimately the same as other YA protagonists, which adds an extra layer of depth to the story.
The only negative thing I can say about this story comes from my own bias. I compared this book to Looking for Alaska because of the layout and contemporary nature and various small details, such as the boarding school setting. While the comparisons were interesting, they ultimately set me up for disappointment because I found The Tragedy Paper to be less profound than I wanted it to be, which is unfair. The Tragedy Paper was certainly wonderful, but not as wonderful as I was expecting. It’s unfair of me to have compared it with a book that not many other books can compete with. For this reason, I knocked one star off of my rating, but I realize it’s my own bias and not something lacking in the actual story.
I would definitely recommend this book and I think it brings up a lot of questions and issues that are important to young adults and would lead to some pretty awesome discussions.