Jamaica is falling apart. Ever since her boyfriend Reese died, she feels she has no reason to live. She’s been ignoring school, refusing to eat or get out of bed. After trying everything from pleading to therapy, her parents decide to send her away to a special boarding school (for those with “issues”) called The Wooden Barn. Jamaica (her friends call her Jam) first reacts the same way she has since Reese died: detached, uninvolved, not caring. But then she’s signed up for Special Topics in English and everything changes.
Special Topics is a teacher-selected class of only five students. They only study one author; this semester it’s Sylvia Plath. They’re required to come to class, to discuss the works, and to write in their journals. But what Jam and the other students don’t realize is this: their lives are about to change.
At first, I loved this book. I like the idea of studying one author in depth, and even though I don’t know much about Sylvia Plath, I was enjoying Wolitzer’s writing about it. I didn’t even mind the slight magical aspect of it: whenever the students write in their journals, they enter an alternate reality, a place where the worst thing hasn’t happened. I thought it was a little weird, particularly since I was expecting a realistic fiction book, but it worked for me.
However, the book fell apart for me at the end. The magic got less realistic and more weird, and it stopped working for me. And the ending was just too pat; Wolitzer underestimated the maturity of her readers by giving them a happily-ever-after ending.
Even so, it was worth the read.
Rated: Moderate for a few f-bombs and some other milder swearing, and some teenage drinking and drug use.