Review of The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan
Title: The Tragedy Paper
Author: Elizabeth LaBan
Publication Date: January 8th, 2013
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
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.
The story begins on the first day of Duncan’s senior year at the Irving School. As is tradition, the person who lived in your room the year before leaves a present for next-years resident. Duncan is left a stack of CD’s that tell the story of Tim Macbeth’s time at the Irving school.
Tim is a lonely guy, an albino who has never really fit in. His new step-father attended the Irving school and loved it. Tim does not have much hope that he will be better off socially at his new school but at least he has a chance. At the airport on the way to school, Tim meets Vanessa who is beautiful and full-of-life. When the plane is delayed, they end up spending the night together waiting for the a flight the following day. Tim takes a few chances and really opens up to Vanessa. Turns out they are going to attend the same school but Tim knows that they can never really be friends.
The Tragedy Paper is a beautiful and tragic story about missed opportunities. There is love and heartbreak. Its is about being our real selves and letting others see us. If I had to compare it to anything, it would be Looking For Alaska by John Green. Maybe because of the boarding school environment but it also has a similar haunting quality. It is sad but hopeful. Tim ultimately has to live with his own tragedy but he is able to let Duncan in on his pain. Helping him to not make the same mistakes.
I really enjoyed how the ending while hopeful, is not a neat package. It is realistic and the characters do have to live with their actions. I truly enjoyed The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan and think it is a very strong debut.
Summary and cover image from goodreads.