• 72°

‘And We Stay’ will stay for a long while

“And We Stay,” by Jenny Hubbard. Delacorte Press. 2014. 224 pp. $16.99.
SALISBURY — Jennifer “Jenny” Hubbard presents a beautiful piece of work in her young adult novel, “And We Stay.” She captures teen life, she emanates emotion, she writes moving poetry.
As a package, “And We Stay” is more highly polished and more satisfying than her first book, “Paper Covers Rock.” And that book was well-written and thought-provoking.
Hubbard comes to a new, intensely creative space with this story of Emily Beam, girlfriend of Paul, the boy who killed himself in the school library.
Emily is devastated and, for many reasons, unable to move forward. Off she’s sent to Boston, to have things taken care of, and then she’s at Amherst School for Girls, feeling disoriented and like a stranger to herself. She’s supposed to be recovering.
Poems bang around in her head and her heart, demanding to be let out. Amherst, Mass., is the home of Emily Dickinson, another poet who could not stop writing. Many called her mad because of her liberal views. Emily Beam feels out of her mind, like what happened must have been to someone else.
The two Emilys come together as the story evolves, as the young girl studies the late poet, reads her biography and even mimics her style sometimes.
Hubbard writes Emily Beam’s poems, of course, and the work is impressive. The poetry makes this novel so much more personal. Hubbard becomes Emily Beam, or Emily Beam becomes Hubbard, Either way, the results are marvelous. The poetry may be too good for a teenager, but it adds so much to the novel and to the character.
If you are one of those people who still has vivid memories of her teen years — and many do — “And We Stay” will stay with you. As author Meg Wolitzer pointed out at the recent Brady Author’s Symposium at Catawba College, our teen years are when we really become ourselves, when we make lots of discoveries. Feelings may overwhelm us then.
That’s what Emily Beam is dealing with. Her feelings have been overwhelmed to the point that she cannot begin to sort them out. She can barely identify them.
The intensely insular nature of a girls’ boarding school may not be the best place to unravel the knot.
Emily is granted a sympathetic and empathetic roommate in K.T., a cello player. She responds immediately to K.T.’s quiet tutelage, her open heart and support. K.T. is exactly who Emily needs. Emily’s French teacher, Madame Colche, also keeps a protective eye on her — even the headmistress is even-handed with the girl who ends up in Emily Dickinson’s house late one evening, who smokes on campus and walks downtown too much.
Emily remains strong enough to handle some of the other students, including the vicious Annabelle and Waverly. Amber is another kind of thorn in Emily’s side, a shoplifter Emily catches in a drugstore, and a deeply troubled girl who latches on to Emily as if on to a hero. She can sense that what Emily suffered is greater than her own suffering.
As Emily begins to release her memories, we learn more about her relationship with Paul and why she so easily makes the association of Paul-pall.
Readers will be deeply moved by the strength of Emily’s character, by her will to live and to move on from a tragedy she can’t take the blame for. While moving, the novel is grounded by Emily’s sense of who she is and what life must be. She may hear Emily Dickinson’s voice in her museum home, but she’s honest about it. She doesn’t like to lie, so she just doesn’t discuss any of what happened. Emily cries — often — but never in maudlin self-pity. Near the end, her sobs are surely a catharsis.
As she accepts her punishment and begins her life again, Emily collects the 30 poems she’s written to send to her English teacher back home, the one who tried to stop Paul. Be sure to go back and read the poems in the order Emily arranges.
I imagine any girl who reads this will feel that she can overcome, can move on from whatever — we hope, smaller tragedies — we all face as we grow up.
Near the end of the book, as Emily goes to find out what her punishment will be, it begins to snow, and she and K.T. “lie on their backs side by side, sliding their arms and legs back and forth.
“The hard part, as any girls knows, is standing back up without ruining your angel. K.T. makes a mess of hers and laughs. ‘Oh, look, Em,’ she says, pointing, “Yours is perfect.”

Comments

Comments closed.

Crime

Man faces kidnapping, assault charges after woman escapes at Webb Road Flea Market

Local

Natoli promoted to assistant county manager, will retain human resources director title

Education

Attendance restriction lifted for RSS graduation ceremonies

Business

Rowan Chamber of Commerce will host in-person Power in Partnership on Thursday

Business

Rowan EDC will undergo name change, alter board requirements with updates to bylaws

Nation/World

Israel strikes Gaza tunnels as truce efforts remain elusive

Nation/World

Supreme Court to take up major abortion rights challenge

Nation/World

Biden boosting world vaccine sharing commitment to 80M doses

Crime

Man charged for stowing away on Norfolk Southern train, impeding railroad operations

Local

Group will protest treatment of Georgia woman during 2019 traffic stop

Crime

Man overdoses at Piedmont Correctional Institute

Crime

Sheriff’s Office: Two men escape from jail, found in bushes on Fulton Street

Ask Us

Ask Us: When will North Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue be resurfaced?

Local

Political Notebook: Rowan’s lawmakers pass 140 bills into the opposite chamber before deadline

Local

Police chief to present use of force policy; city manager to present 2021-22 budget

Crime

Blotter: Rockwell man arrested on charges of felony larceny, possession of stolen vehicle

Coronavirus

CDC director says mask turnaround based solely on science

News

Catawba College hosts three in-person commencement ceremonies

Local

With high case loads causing numerous staff departures, Child Protective Services seeks more positions

Education

Livingstone College graduates celebrate ‘crossing the finish line’ during commencement celebration

Coronavirus

Rowan sees 4 new COVID-19 deaths as mask mandate lifted, vaccines administered continue decline

Local

Spencer is latest town updating its development ordinance

Local

Salisbury native Kristy Woodson Harvey makes NY Times bestseller list

Local

Board of Commissioners will convene for third time in May