Book Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer


Title: Belzhar

Author: Meg Wolitzer

Format / Length: Paperback / 266 pages

Publisher / Date Published: Children’s Simon & Schuster UK / October 1st 2014

Category / Genre: Young Adult / Magical Realism

Source: Library

| Goodreads |

Description: If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.

When previously reading reviews of Belzhar, I found that a lot of people seemed to be taken aback by the magical realism element to the story, but, funnily enough, I think that was the best part of the novel, followed by the writing style. Because unfortunately for me the rest fell flat. It wasn’t that this was a bad novel — because it wasn’t. It just felt so . . . meh. I got what I was expecting from Belzhar, but considering my expectations weren’t high at the time I wasn’t surprised.

meh animated GIF

One positive thing I can say about Belzhar was the uniqueness of its plot. I admire that. I liked that it wasn’t a clichéd, overused idea, but instead Wolitzer brought something new and exciting to the magical realism genre, which I’ve never really been fond of before. But when I weigh that up against all the things I didn’t like about Belzhar, then this wasn’t an easy novel to enjoy. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the story, or the writing that has made me feel so meh about the story — more that I didn’t like the characters. And when I don’t like the characters then I’m most likely not going to like the story in its entirety, either.

Reaction GIF: eye roll, are you kidding me?, despair, Krysten Ritter, Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23

There wasn’t a particular reason why I didn’t connect with the characters. But when the plot twist was revealed, all I could think was Are you kidding me? It was that sort of twist for me — and not in a good way, either. I just . . . really?! I felt a little cheated, if I’m being honest — and, without spoiling it for people who haven’t read the novel — it was just very frustrating to have everything flipped on its head. In the beginning of the novel you’re feeling sorry for the main character. And in the end you’re not. (Or, at least I wasn’t.)

But the UK / AUS edition of that cover is STUNNING.

Have you read Belzhar — what did you think of it? And what does a plot twist need to work for you?


10 thoughts on “Book Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

  1. I’m surprised I didn’t give this one star, given how much I disliked it (aren’t I nice?). But then the last book I gave one star was Allegiant and I didn’t want to be THAT mean. The ending of this one, though…I wanted to bang my head against a wall or something.

  2. I’ve never read Belzhar before, but the blurb is really intriguing and it sounds like a book that would lead to a shocking ending. I’m not sure that I’ll read it, though. I do like magical realism, but I’ve only read it in MG books. I feel like it fits MG books the best because MG books are usually whimsical, and that is a perfect environment for magical realism.

  3. Yup. I felt absolutely gobsmacked at the ending…and NOT in a good way. More in a are you kidding me…empathy GONE. I wasn’t okay with Jam at all. I felt really meh about the whole thing too, and it easily is a book I really couldn’t care less about having read. -_- I AM MEAN. But ergh, the ending made me angry.

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