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The Tragedy Paper

by Elizabeth LaBan

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4474349,547 (3.65)4
While preparing for the most dreaded assignment at the prestigious Irving School, the Tragedy Paper, Duncan gets wrapped up in the tragic tale of Tim Macbeth, a former student who had a clandestine relationship with the wrong girl, and his own ill-fated romance with Daisy.
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    Perdido Street Station by China Miéville (Sandwich76)
  2. 00
    Looking for Alaska by John Green (amysisson)
    amysisson: "Looking for Alaska" explores tragedy much as "The Tragedy Paper" does, but doesn't spend so much time discussing it explicitly -- which in my mind makes it even more effective. The two books have the boarding school theme in common, as well as a special, unique young woman who has captured the protagonist's heart.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
This was a good story about high school and the changes one can go through, as well as the ideals of self acceptance.

This story is told through dual perspectives - the first (and most prominent throughout the story) being Tim, a senior who arrives at a new school half-way through the semester wanting to skate by and be left alone. He is used to it and prefers it because he is an albino. Tim's story is played on CD's by Duncan (our second character) who was a junior while Tim was there, but is a senior at the beginning of the story. Duncan comes back to school with a lot on his mind from the previous year (we know something bad happened that is going to unfolded as both Tim and Duncan's stories interweave) and it is through Tim's CD story telling that Duncan is able to accept himself.

The issues that both Tim and Duncan face are very real and I was able to connect to Tim's hardship of being so self-conscious about his image. Tim let his physical appearance hold him back, and I think most middle or high schoolers have at one time or another been self-conscious about the way they look and have let it dictate certain things about their life.

I wasn't able to connect as well to Duncan's character. He seemed much more moody to me and the big reveal towards the end of what was bothering him so much surprised me - but not in a good way. I couldn't believe that he would blame himself for what happened (it is obvious throughout the book that he is playing the blame game on himself in his head by distancing himself from other characters). Self-blame is definitely something that a lot of us do and can be seen as distracting and holding people back in certain situations, but the specifics of this book made it feel slightly less than real. Without giving too much away, Duncan didn't even know the senior class (that means Tim or any of the minor characters)and so there should be no reason for him to feel as though anything that happened would have been his fault.

I think Elizabeth LaBan did a good job of creating a few original characters (Tim is the one that stands out most strongly to me) to fit within "cliques" that nearly everyone had within their own high school. The rest were mostly cliched which didn't necessarily make a connection with me.

The descriptions in this book were pretty good and being from the Midwest where the weather is relatively similar to that on the East Coast, I was able to get a very clear image of what things looked like (including the buildings/rooms). There were some parts where there were descriptions that I thought either dragged on or felt a little unnatural. There were a few times where either Tim or Duncan were talking about going to breakfast and would then describe what was for breakfast and where the school got all the items of food from (the school supported locally grown and made items). While I do like the fact that LaBan chose to make the school ecologically friendly and to support local businesses, there were definitely parts that didn't work themselves into the story naturally. Do I as the reader really need to know where the school got their heirloom tomatoes? And further more, do I really need to know the specifics of what was being eaten for lunch if it was not directly related to what was happening in the story. The only reason I would get so nit-picky about this is because I remember reading some of the lunch room scenes and thinking to myself that the specific food they were eating didn't feel like a natural part of the story.

Either way, this book would be a great one for middle schoolers and young high schoolers. One of my sophomores came to me one day this past school year telling me that she had stayed up really late to finish reading this book and she thought I should read it. I'm glad she connected so well to it, but I don't think I did as much because of my age difference in relation to the characters and some of the cliched "clique" characters. ( )
  courty4189 | Mar 24, 2021 |
I really liked the structure of this book, the way the mystery is slowly revealed to the reader through the dual perspectives. The boarding school feel was also enjoyable. BUT. I didn't love that Vanessa's character is only seen through Tim's eyes, all her actions interpreted by someone ostensibly in love with her (though I'd say obsessed with rather than in love). I liked Duncan and Daisy's relationship more, if for no other reason than we got to "hear" Daisy's actual words, not her voice filtered through boys.

I think what bothered me was that Tim sees Vanessa as being with this jerky but hot/popular guy, and he sees himself as a Nice Guy that is only not an option as a boyfriend because of his albinism and the social rejection that would follow dating him. And if there's anything that puts my back right up, it's Nice Guys who think that the only reason they aren't getting a date is because a girl is too shallow to appreciate them. See: anyone un-ironically wearing a trilby or fedora on Tumblr. Anyway, I'm getting off track, but I think the specter of the Nice Guy haunted me through this story, so I liked it less than I could have and that really won't be a problem with most readers so WHATEVER. I'm off to a great start on my year of reading things and liking them more. Ahem. ( )
  bookbrig | Aug 5, 2020 |
The Tragedy Paper is a book that I would have LOVED as a teenager; it is a prime example of my favorite genre at the time: YA books about teens with REAL PROBLEMS. The book opens with Duncan going back to boarding school for his senior year. One of the school's traditions is that seniors from the previous year leave a gift for them in their dorm rooms. While Duncan's friend get a bottle of whiskey, Duncan gets a stack of CD's from Tim, "that albino kid." We are told that SOMETHING TERRIBLE happened last year, SOMETHING AWFUL that Duncan does not want to think about. What happened?!

We don't find out until the final pages, and for all that time in between, nothing happens. Duncan listens to the CD's, which contain Tim's discussion of what happened last school year (very [b:Thirteen Reasons Why|29844228|Thirteen Reasons Why|Jay Asher|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1496655158s/29844228.jpg|2588213]). This is odd because Duncan and Tim weren't friends.. we find out that they didn't know each other until THE EVENT. So why does Duncan care so much about Tim's love life? Why is Duncan so riveted by Tim's account of his senior year? I just don't buy it. Nothing even happens in the tapes (um, CD's).. Tim loves Vanessa, but Vanessa has a boyfriend, and SOMETHING HORRIBLE is going to happen..

The thing is, once the EVENT finally occurs (a boarding school prank, very [b:Looking for Alaska|99561|Looking for Alaska|John Green|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1394798630s/99561.jpg|919292]), you're left shaking your head. Was that it?! The HORRIBLE THING is such a letdown, such a perfect example of an"anticlimactic" event that I hesitate to use that word.

In The Tragedy Paper, LaBan pulls in details of Looking of Alaska and Thirteen Reasons Why in an attempt to hook teenage readers with a rip-off of their favorite books. I did enjoy that the kids at her boarding school have to write a senior thesis exploring what a tragedy really is (hence the book's title), but other than that minor plot point, this book is boring. Please skip it. ( )
  bookishblond | Oct 24, 2018 |
I just finished this one and my mind is going crazy....

From the minute I opened the book I was consumed by an intense, wonderful story. My heart surrendered to Tim and I began to think about the story when I wasn't reading.

It was about an Albino teen falling in love and getting twisted up in a forbidden romance... He isn't exactly normal so he isn't sure what to do when he is stuck in the middle of a love triangle. His feelings are all over the board. While struggling with that though his health takes a turn for the worse and at the end it plays a huge role in the outcome of the book.

The story is told by recorded tapes. Duncan is the boy listening and we do get an insight into his life as well. Later in the book you will realize how the two are connected.

That ending! I need more Tim... like yesterday!
The reviews weren't great, but I gave it a chance and I am so glad that I did.

I definitely recommend this story to everyone looking for a plot with meaning.
( )
  ReadersCandyb | Oct 7, 2016 |
The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan is the story of the senior year of albino Tim Macbeth at the Irving School, as told through CDs to Duncan Meade. While it is now Duncan's senior year at the prestigious boarding school, Tim left the CD's as a legacy of sorts to him as the new resident of the small corner room Tim was relegated to the year before. Since all the seniors are assigned a tragedy paper as a senior year thesis, Tim promises that the CDs will not only tell the story of the tragedy that occurred the year before, but that the story will help Duncan write his tragedy paper. The CD's explain Tim's connection to the popular girl, Vanessa, and slowly build until the final tragedy is fully explained.

The Tragedy Paper is a YA novel and is listed as suitable for age 12 and up. It certainly would be a suitable novel for the YA audience. There is no questionable language and the rule breaking present is very innocent. The pacing of the story is gradual and deliberate, allowing anticipation of the upcoming tragedy to build. LaBan handled the plot and character development with skill. These characters felt like actual young people going through a confusing time in their lives, while unbeknownst to then a tangible tragedy is about to unfold.

Certainly a novel about a tragedy, and a tragedy paper that must be written, will include many parallels to the literary influences found in other novels and plays. There was abundant foreshadowing and premonitions that something was going to happen. Works mentioned or credited with influencing The Tragedy Paper include: S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders and That Was Then, This is Now, The Sorrows of Young Werther, The Dead Poet’s Society, Thirteen Reasons Why, Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres (based on King Lear) and, naturally, Shakespearean plays (with a Macbeth and a Duncan, need I even mention this.)

I will very highly recommend The Tragedy Paper as a YA novel worth an adult's time too.


Disclosure: My Advanced Reading Copy Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House Children's Books and Netgalley for review purposes.

( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
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While preparing for the most dreaded assignment at the prestigious Irving School, the Tragedy Paper, Duncan gets wrapped up in the tragic tale of Tim Macbeth, a former student who had a clandestine relationship with the wrong girl, and his own ill-fated romance with Daisy.

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Average: (3.65)
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