Review: Hold Still

◆ Hold Still by Nina LaCour
◆ Read July 2014
◆ English Edition
◆ 
❝ I am a girl ready to explode into nothing.

That night Ingrid told Caitlin, I'll go wherever you go. But by dawn, Ingrid was dead and Caitlin was alone. Suddenly Caitlin has to deal with a completely unfamiliar life—a life without the art, the laughter, the music, and the joy she shared with her best friend. When she finds the journal Ingrid left behind, Caitlin gets a chance to learn about another side of her friend; and the journal becomes her guide as she deals with forging new friendships, finding a first love, and learning to live without the one person who knew her best.
Every once in a while I come across a book that touches me greatly. This was the case with Hold Still, because it hit close to home. I think part of this is because I could very easily imagine myself in Caitlin's place. Someone incredibly dear to me has battled with depression for as long as I can remember so it was easy to identify with the most basic questions that this book features: Why? Why is someone always so sad? Why is someone not able to go on with their daily life? Even, in the case of this novel, why does someone commit suicide?


Part of the reason why I like this book so much is because of the way it handled the topic of depression. I've read enough books about the same subject where the whole situation is sugarcoated or just not expressed right. Hold Still puts it like it is, that there is no explanation and that for someone who is not suffering from depression, it is often hard to understand. It's no surprise that my favorite quote is “you might be looking for reasons, but there are no reasons." The fact that the author never once tried to give an explanation for depression, or did not even try to define it exactly either, relieved me to no end. Adding journal entries was a very clever addition too. 

In addition, to a really big extent I liked that the book doesn't have a very defined plot, but that Lacour decided to focus on emotions. It's not so much about the things that Caitlin does everyday as it is about the way she, her friends, her parents, her teacher and others feel. Furthermore, photography is a recurring theme in the novel because it was Ingrid's  favorite thing to do, but also because it is a way for Caitlin to express herself. It plays a big role in Caitlin's coming to terms with things. 

Unfortunately I disliked some aspects of Hold Still which has caused me to give it a lower rating. For one, the characters, even Caitlin who is the narrator, were a bit one-dimensional. As a reader you get find out so little about characters like Ingrid, Taylor, Dylan and others, except for the most obvious of things that one was clinically depressed and the others all lost someone dear to them. When I read a book I want to find out more than that. I want to know their hobbies, certain characteristics and quirks, things that are typical for that particular character. I missed that in this story.

Some scenes in the book were also a bit unrealistic in my opinion. The way Caitlin's teacher treated her at the beginning of the year is not something any professional would do. Don't even get me started about the way the kids at Caitlin's school behave about Ingrid's suicide, talking about how brave it is to cut so deep. Any of the kids I've grown up with are well enough behaved to never say something like that, and I don't believe that kids in America are any different. It took away some of the credibility of the entire story and to me it seemed like they were only added for a certain "shock-factor".

Regardless though, the writing style is fluent and light which made me fly through the pages, and it touched me more than I expected at first. It could have been even better with more character insight and development, but even without it, it is already a beautiful, moving young adult novel with so much truth in it. 

4 stars because:
✓Good portrayal of depression
✓Focus on emotions and feelings
✓Enjoyable writing style. 

✗One dimensional characters
✗Unrealistic scenes


 

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