Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Thursday, January 1, 2015
Why I chose this book: 
I WAS SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS BOOK. Before I begin, let me explain that I have a mighty love for my homegirl Sylvia Plath. So when I saw that a YA novel based around her works was coming out, I did a little dance. Plath has so much pain, passion, and life in her writing. With that being said, I was very anxious to see how it would be connected to the realm of YA lit.

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Publisher: Dutton Juvenal
Publish Date: September 30th, 2014
Format: Hardback
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary/Realistic Fiction, Magical Realism
If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be  at home in New Jersey with her sweet British  boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching  old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing  him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss. (Goodreads)
What I liked: 
"I was sent here because of a boy. His name was Reeve Maxfield, and I loved him and then he died, and almost a year passed and no one knew what to do with me." Jam Gallahue is a girl with a broken heart and an even far more broken spirit. When she arrives at The Wooden Barn, she hopes to put in her time and get out as soon as possible. Yet much to her chagrin, she is enrolled in a super elite special topics class for English, and her world is turned upside down.

I felt for Jam, I really did. There is a handful of people that Jam meets in her special topics class, and together they become “The Breakfast Club” but for broken toys. Each of their stories are unique and filled with heartache. I found myself laughing with them and crying for them as they all learn to heal from the trauma that brings them together.

What I loved: 
While this is contemporary fiction, this is also has a heavy dose of magical realism. With that being said, the book does start off kind of….odd. But please, don’t let this hinder you from reading. Once you connect with the people and their stories, you won’t want to put it down. This is one of those books that has a character that almost everyone can connect with. It highlights that brokenness is a universal attribute, as is healing.

While Plath’s work is mentioned heavily throughout the novel, you don’t have to know her writing to enjoy the book. In all honesty, I feel like these characters are Plath’s words personified. Each one brings to life a different part of Plath’s story, writing style, and wisdom. Like Plath, these characters deal with mental illness in ways that are completely unique to them. Much like real life, healing has its own timeline, and the world of Belzhar helps them move past their trauma to better days.

Final Thoughts: 
This book made my heart ache. Very few books do that these days. While this is a short novel, it is packed with emotion and love that will strike you at your core. 

I gave this book five stars on Goodreads, AND made it a part of my “favorites” shelf.


  1. Aw, so glad you liked it so much! I LOVE It when books speak to us like that, right?! It's just...specialness. I have to admit I didn't like this one, but I WON'T SAY ANYTHING! I'm fully aware I'm a weirdo. ;-)

  2. I have heard mixed reviews on this one, but I'm still intrigued. It's good to know that one doesn't need to be familiar with Plath's work to enjoy it.

    Thanks for the review!


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