I love discovering new writers. There is something exciting about falling in love with a book by a an author you know little about and then telling everyone you know about said writer. My new current obsession is Nina LaCour. I had heard wonderful things about this contemporary YA writer but only recently did I get around to reading her first novel, Hold Still, and now I am a dedicated fangirl.
In a nutshell, Hold Still is the story of how Caitlin learns to deal her best friend Ingrid’s shocking suicide. It is also a story about making new friends, finding your voice artistically, allowing yourself to be loved, and learning that adults are people, too. LaCour’s narrative voice is smart but believable. Caitlin is an angry young woman and it is hard to watch her take her grief out on the wrong people. Ultimately she makes her own peace with Ingrid’s loss, and not in a way that feels too tidy or unrealistic. For those people who are dealing with grief, I hope they are surrounded with the kind of loving and influential people that Caitlin has around her.
More than Caitlin’s grief and transformation, what I take from this novel is the sense of place LaCour creates. There are so many interesting and vivid places in the book, including a derelict, condemned movie theatre, a veritable haunted house full of memories that Ingrid and Caitlin made together. The theatre plays an important role in both Caitlin’s artistic evolution and her final goodbye to Ingrid. I also longed to hang out in the tree house Caitlin builds in her backyard and get soup in the noodle place she and Dylan escape to at lunch. LaCour creates images that will not easily be forgotten.
Hold Still reminded me of Jandy Nelson’s perfect The Sky is Everywhere and Matthew Quick’s searing Sorta Like a Rock Star in terms of character, imagery and layered examinations of grief. If you’ve been following this blog you know I can give no higher praise than these two comp titles. Fans of sophisticated and emotionally resonant YA fiction will appreciate LaCour’s insight and style.
Sometimes, when falling in love with a book, you get a sense that the writer is also an awesome person. So it follows that LaCour is one cool chick who is deeply involved with bringing her book to the screen with a team of intrepid artists and filmmakers making use of social media and kickstarter to bring her vision to life.
Expect big things from LaCour.
I am off to binge on The Disenchantments.
Hold Still is available now in paperback from Penguin Canada.