Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer


Jam is sent to a school for emotionally fragile children. She fell apart following the death of her true love, a boy called Reeve Maxfield, and she doesn’t see the point of school or life anymore. This school is a last attempt by her parents to help her find meaning again. When Jam is chosen to be part of the English Special Topics group, she looks round the class and wonders what she could possible have in common with the other teenagers there and what the teacher hopes to achieve. Slowly she finds herself enthralled by the book they are studying, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, and by the journal they have all been told to keep. The rest of the group seem to be experiencing similar feelings and, as the group share their thoughts and problems, they bond. English Special Topics only runs for one term and Jam only has a short time to come to terms with her past and to make the most of her future opportunities.

This is a lovely book, which seems odd to say given that the main characters are teenagers who have experienced a trauma or upset that has had a negative impact on their life. However this is a book of hope; hope that each character can come to terms with their past and can find meaning in life. The support the teenagers give each other is heartwarming, as is the way they learn to face up to – and let go of – their pasts. Each character is interesting and, in their own ways, each one is an unreliable narrator which makes their stories all the more intriguing. Their enjoyment of Sylvia Plath’s work is an extra bonus. To me this is the kind of book that surpasses it’s cover and it’s blurb. You really need to pick it up and read it.

One comment

  1. […] Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer – a group of emotionally troubled teens at a boarding school are asked to study The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. The reader is inevitably drawn to, and fascinated by, Sylvia Plath and The Bell Jar. Whilst The Bell Jar is a novel, Sylvia Plath herself is a renowned poet and readers who enjoy Belzhar may well find themselves tempted to delve into Plath’s poetry. […]

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