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Magic and self-discovery in Meg Wolitzer's latest
Nina Subin

The teenagers at the well-foliaged Wooden Barn boarding school have all known trouble. Some are battling eating disorders and depression. Others are learning to cope with a family tragedy or a recent disability.

Yet none are as hopeless as 15-year-old Jam Gallahue, the introspective narrator of Meg Wolitzer’s new novel, Belzhar, who has recently lost the love of her life.

But just when it seems Jam’s grief is at its worst (“We don’t know what else to do with you!” her mother admits on drop-off day), she’s handpicked for a special English seminar that could quite possibly change her life.

It’s through this class that she discovers writers who share her sadness--most notably, Sylvia Plath. And it’s where she’s given a mysterious journal that has the capacity to transport her to another time and place. Belzhar, she calls it, in homage to Plath’s cloistered Bell Jar.

Belzhar is published by Dutton Juvenile and housed in the young-adult section of the bookstore. (Remember bookstores?) But Wolitzer (The Interestings, The Ten-Year Nap) is a grown-up’s writer at her core, and Jam’s story resonates with readers of all ages.

Your first love, your first heartache, your first time away from home: Get ready for those memories to come flooding back.

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