The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban, published by Doubleday on 10th January 2013
Tim Macbeth is a
17-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving
School, where the motto is, “Enter here to be and find a friend.” Tim
does not expect to find a friend; all he really wants to do is escape
his senior year unnoticed. Despite his efforts to blend into the
background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “it” girl,
Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim’s
surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, and she can kiss her social status
goodbye if anyone finds out. Tim and Vanessa enter into a clandestine
relationship, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s
version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least
'The Tragedy Paper' is a beautifully written, heartbreaking read which is perfect for curling up with on a snowy, wintry day.
The book has a dual narrative and is shared between characters Duncan and Tim. Duncan has just moved into Tim's old room at the Irving School when he discovers a stack of CDs which have been left behind for him to listen to. These hold Tim's story which he recounts over the course of the book.
I only meant to read a couple of chapters but before I knew it I was half-way through and a bit like Duncan, desperate to find out more about Tim and what happened to him. Repeated hints are dropped about something terrible which took place the previous academic year and which impacted upon them both. I was intrigued about this and had a few guesses, none of which were even close to the truth.
I really liked both characters. Tim is an albino and has always felt like he is on the sidelines looking in, until he meets Vanessa and falls in love for the first time. Duncan feels strongly about Daisy too but there's something holding him back from being able to fully commit to her and their relationship. Tim's voice is only ever heard on the recordings that Duncan listens to, but his personality and character were still perfectly captured and he came across as the overriding presence in the book. A voice of warning from the past.
I loved the way that the theme of tragedy was interwoven into the plot and how the characters try to define what tragedy actually means. This was an interesting hook to hang the story on and led to some quite deep and personal explorations. I'll admit that I was a little disappointed with the overall ending which felt slightly anti-climatic. There was quite a big build-up but when the revelation came of what had actually occurred I thought it was going to be more earth shattering than it actually turned out to be. This was only a minor complaint however and didn't spoil what was otherwise a tremendous read.
Elizabeth Laban's debut novel is a real treat and I eagerly await whatever she decides to write next!