review: hold still

An arresting story about starting over after a friend’s suicide, from a breakthrough new voice in YA fiction.

dear caitlin, there are so many things that i want so badly to tell you but i just can’t.

Devastating, hopeful, hopeless, playful . . . in words and illustrations, Ingrid left behind a painful farewell in her journal for Caitlin. Now Caitlin is left alone, by loss and by choice, struggling to find renewed hope in the wake of her best friend’s suicide. With the help of family and newfound friends, Caitlin will encounter first love, broaden her horizons, and start to realize that true friendship didn’t die with Ingrid. And the journal which once seemed only to chronicle Ingrid’s descent into depression, becomes the tool by which Caitlin once again reaches out to all those who loved Ingrid—and Caitlin herself.

My Opinion:

Hold Still is the latest YA book that I've fallen in love with. And to be honest, I don't fall in love with books that often. I think it's mostly because of the beautiful writing--LaCour's prose can only be described as lyrical and breathtaking. And as you might know by now, I'm a sucker for gorgeous novels.

Hold Still tells the story of Caitlin, but also of Ingrid, her best friend. Ingrid--a talented photographer with a future, a girl that seems happy before she kills herself. Her suicide devastates Caitlin, who doesn't know how to carry on in the year following Ingrid's death--and the halting and painful interactions she has with others only complicates her sense of loss. The combination of unwanted sympathy and morbid curiosity from her classmates leaves Caitlin feeling isolated at school. Her parents are convinced that her grief needs an outlet--they're worried that she's depressed. Her once friendly photography teacher won't even talk to her. On the other hand, Taylor, a skater-boy who's far too nice, keeps trying to talk to her.

Caitlin dwells on memories of Ingrid; remembrances of her best friend seem to materialize everywhere. Under her bed, Caitlin finds Ingrid's journal, and she knows she's meant to read it. The short journal entries, including Ingrid's confessions and sketches, appear periodically throughout Hold Still. They illuminate Ingrid's state of mind--one minute agonizing over her crush, the other confessing that she "can't stop crying." These excerpts are heartfelt and earnest--and quite touching. Other elements of the book--Caitlin's projects, involving photography and woodwork; and the fact that her lesbian friend Dylan's sexuality is a non-issue-- are also captured well.

It's really not the premise of Hold Still that caught my attention (YA already has it's fair share of girl-getting-over-death-of-loved-one)--but the execution. I did a little happy dance inside after reading the first pages of Hold Still--right away, I knew this would be one of the rare times I had to buy a book. So I did. And I'm really glad I did. It's by the grace of LaCour's language that Hold Still is able to hold it's own against the multitude of grief books already out there. To me, it's what allows the book to stand out.

The lyricism of the writing, the sentence fragments, and the setup of the book--the chapters are fragmented, brief vignettes of scenes from Caitlin's life-- all combined to make this one of the best YA books I've read in the last few months. Through the space of 200-something pages, readers are taken along a journey with Caitlin. A heartbreaking, poignant journey of grief that still manages to resonate with beauty.

My Rating: I give it a 9/10. I haven't given out a 9/10 FOR TWO MONTHS, peeps. AKA this means you really should pick up a copy ASAP. Really.