Magan: The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan

book cover for The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan (twitter)
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 312
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: albino character, boarding school, dual perspective
Format Read: Purchased eBook for my kindle

Summary: Duncan unravels the mystery of Tim’s relationship with Vanessa (and their mysterious tragedy) through a series of recordings left behind for Duncan at the beginning of Duncan’s senior year.

Where, oh where, to begin? I’m full of bumbling thoughts about The Tragedy Paper and quite unsure how to best share them with you guys because I’m uncertain if my words are going to be sufficient enough to describe what an incredible read this was.

*deep breath*

The Tragedy Paper is told, essentially, from two perspectives. Tim is perpetually the misfit at every school he has attended because his skin color and hair were different, so his stepfather recommends that he spend the final semester of his senior year at the Irving School because it was where he”found himself” as a student. Tim’s an incredibly smart guy, but no one really gives him the time of day; he doesn’t believe he fits within the confines of the social norm because he’s albino. An accidental run-in before the semester begins with one of the school’s most popular girls, Vanessa, really affects the effort he puts into making friends and putting himself out there. Instead of doing so, he becomes infatuated with this girl despite feeling like he has zero chance of his affection ever being reciprocated.

Upon graduating from the Irving School, seniors leave behind something special for the next year’s seniors to find in their rooms on move-in day. Tim passes along a set of recordings to Duncan and encourages him to listen to his story about an event that occurred the year before. While we’re mostly in present day with Duncan, learning about him as he begins dating someone he’s had his eye on and figuring out that he, too, is essentially a social outcast, readers spend the majority of the book with Duncan, locked in his room as he listens to Tim tell his story through the recordings.

LaBan did an incredible job balancing the back and forth between Duncan and Tim, though I did find myself shaking my fist at the book a time or two because JUST as I felt a big discovery was to be unveiled, the perspective would switch. (Tricky, tricky — of course this kept me up well past my bedtime a time or two.) The setting felt so incredibly perfect for this time of year, too. I was reading The Tragedy Paper on some of the coldest days Texas has seen and it couldn’t have felt more right to be bundled up in blankets as Tim wandered through the snow with Vanessa.

But maybe most striking was the dialogue about Tim. Tim, the albino guy who won’t take care of himself because he is afraid to stand out even more. Tim, the guy who doesn’t think he’s good enough to have someone fall in love with him. The guy who will forget he has a backbone because he’s receiving a bit of recognition from someone popular. Despite the physical differences that may be between Tim and myself, I felt so connected to him because so many times have I felt unworthy of the attention and love I’ve received, even if my doubts were for different reasons.

All of that is to say, I haven’t even begun to mention how strong The Tragedy Paper is from a literary point of view. There’s this incredible focus on what a tragedy is in the senior English class; the students must write a thesis that unpacks their understanding of tragedy. The way this is woven into Tim and Duncan’s stories was remarkable. Really, it just blew me away.

The Tragedy Paper is full of so many strengths: solid writing, a gripping story, a school I wish I’d attended, and characters I felt so incredibly tied to. SURELY this is reason enough for you to pick up this book immediately.

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13 thoughts on “Magan: The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan

  1. Meg says:

    YAY! I’ve never seen another review of this book, which makes me quite sad . . . because I thought it was outstanding. It absolutely sucked me in and kept me up well past my bedtime, too, but I simply had to know what would become of Tim and Vanessa. Though I did feel the “big reveal” was a little of a letdown after so much build-up, that doesn’t take away from the fact that it was an engrossing story — and well worth the read. So glad you enjoyed it, too, and loved reliving the story through your review.

  2. Cassie says:

    OK. Ive been eyeing this down for quite some time and you definitely made me want it even more! Im super mad cuz i’m almost positive it was on sale the other day! BUT ALAS, I now must have it, I really like how you said that the perspectives switch just as things get interesting! Sounds so good!

  3. Tiff @ Mostly YA Lit says:

    Ok, so I’ve been lemming this book since it came out – it was a library hold, and then I just couldn’t get to it…but now I know I have to. Thank you for this glowing review. Definitely moving up the TBR now. =)

  4. Alexa S. says:

    Wow. Just wow, M. I remember reading excellent reviews of this book a year ago, and considering it as one of the books I’d want to read. Your review just reminded me of how mysterious and intriguing the story is, and made me want to read it even more, so awesome job!

  5. Andrea Modolo (@Book_lover1988) says:

    Yes, I absolutely loved this book, it was so beautiful and the story is so emotional. I really enjoyed the different perspectives and how the story slowly comes out of what happened to Tim and Vanessa. The way the story is written is so engrossing and I remember not wanting to put the book down. Glad you enjoyed this one!

  6. Ellice says:

    I’ve been back and forth on this one… I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but you have definitely convinced me! You make it sound so good. I really love the cover. It makes me wonder if he’s running toward something or away from something…Great review, Magan!

  7. Lauren @ Love is not a triangle says:

    I’m so happy that you’re highlighting this book! I remember reading a review about it when it came out last year and being very interested, but then I sort of forgot about it. SAD! You have once again made me want to read this. I love books that are literary, character driven and have male povs. I want to know Tim and Duncan better!

  8. Sara (of The Page Sage) says:

    The Tragedy Paper kept me up reading, too! The switching perspectives is done SO well, though it was torture when you just wanted to know what was going to happen next. And the way the tragedy themes are woven into the story is amazing.

  9. Judith says:

    I’ve been curious about this book for a while now, but your review definitely makes me want to read it. I love how mysterious (and well-written and unique and intriguing and amazing) this sounds, so thank you for convincing me to give it a shot. 🙂

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