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Book Review: The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan

The Tragedy PaperTitle: The Tragedy Paper
Author: Elizabeth LaBan
Series: N/A
Pages: 305
Publisher: Doubleday
Date of Publication: 10th January 2013
Source: Publisher
Synopsis from Goodreads: 
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.

My Thoughts:
The Tragedy Paper surprised me. I never expected to love it as much I did. It had been likened to Looking For Alaska by John Green, which I enjoyed but didn't love, and I'd heard it would make me cry and really think so I was a bit wary, because whenever I read books like this, I always feel like I didn't really get them, that I missed the point that took it from being just good to being awesome. So I was sceptical, but I was still excited to read it because it really sounded good from the synopsis, and also it's a boarding school book so obviously I had to read it. (I have a thing for boarding school books...)

So, The Tragedy Paper is written in a dual narrative: Duncan's, who's at Irving now and is listening to Tim's audio CDs of his story from the previous year, which is the second part of the dual narrative, if that makes sense. (To put it simply, Duncan is listening to Tim's recount of his last year at Irving at the same time as he's living his.) It's a bit confusing! Anyway, I really liked that it was told in this way because we got to live through Tim's amazing story at the same time as Duncan did (although he knew what was coming and we didn't.) I loved the build up to the main event at the end of the book, and although it was frustrating that Tim kept referring to some 'accident' but wouldn't tell us what it was, it was great to anticipate it and try and work out what it was. There were some clues, but I didn't guess, which is good!

I really liked Tim. I felt sorry for him at first, because he was albino and having trouble fitting in and making friends, and I could completely understand that because I'm going through a rough patch at school with my friends right now, (although I'm not albino). So immediately I could relate to him and that made me like him, so that's always good. I did feel that we didn't get enough time to get to know Duncan properly, but I guess he wasn't really the main character of the story even though it's his senior year at Irving that we're really in. Anyway, I would have liked to have spent more time with him and Daisy, his girlfriend, in the book.

My favourite character though, was Vanessa. It's characters like her that are my favourites I think, because I admire them so much. It's the way she was so nice to Tim, all the time, despite not knowing him and the fact that he was albino and everyone thought it was weird. She went against what everyone else thought and though she tried not to be seen in public with Tim she did have her reasons which I agreed with so I didn't mind. I'd love to be able to say that I would do that, but I'm not sure that I would - I'm working on it!

There is a love triangle in The Tragedy Paper, but I think it added to the story and I actually really liked it. I liked how because of it, Patrick, Vanessa's boyfriend actually talked to Tim and although he was nasty and definitely wasn't a friend, Tim didn't spend all his time in his room moping about how he has no friends and how he's in love with the 'It' girl that he'll never get. He got involved in things and actually ended making some real friends out of it so I was glad for him then.

Lastly, I absolutely loved the sound of The Irving School - it was absolutely brilliant. I'd love to go to a school like that, I really would. The setting sounds beautiful, and the idea of taking the English class that Tim and Duncan take and having to write my own Tragedy Paper sounds awesome. It sounds like a lot of work, but interesting too. I loved thinking about what you could base it on, and what you would write, and ah I'm kind of jealous of the students in the book who get to do it... Also, the Senior Game sounds awesome, as does being left a treasure at the beginning of your senior year... Aww I just love the sound of it! I think that's what made the book for me, in the end.

Overall, The Tragedy Paper was really, really brilliant. I loved it a whole lot more than I thought I would, and I could have easily sat and read it all the way through in one sitting if it weren't for my stupid revision for my stupid exams (which are thankfully over now so I can get back to reading and blogging YAY!) Anyway, I definitely recommend it if you're looking for something a little different that will make you think, has fabulously realistic characters and a beautiful setting.

*Thanks to Random House for sending me this in exchange for an honest review. In no way has this affected my opinion of the book. 


  1. This book sounds so good! I'm glad you liked it! I love boarding school novels, too! I'll be looking out for it soon. Lovely review, Bella!


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