Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
In the wake of her best friend Ingrid's suicide, Caitlin is left alone, struggling to find hope and answers. When she finds the journal Ingrid left behind for her, she begins a journey of understanding and broadening her horizons that leads her to new friendships and first love. Nina LaCour brings the changing seasons of Caitlin's first year without Ingrid to life with emotion, honesty, and captivating writing.
When I read Thirteen Reasons Why and complained about the believability of the story, several people came up to me and said, “Read Hold Still instead”. It took me a few years, but I never forgot about the book recommendation. Finally, here I am, I’ve read the book, and I gladly join the group of people who tell you to read Hold Still instead.
Whereas Thirteen Reasons Why lacked in depth for me, there’s plenty of it in Hold Still. One evening, Caitlin and Ingrid are talking about their futures, and Ingrid says, ”I’ll go wherever you go”. The next day, Ingrid is dead, having committed suicide, and leaves a devastated best friend behind. This is where the book starts, which is a really powerful beginning – it is a true portrayal of raw grief; it is sad and depressing; and it makes you feel as numb as Caitlin does.
The hardest, but also the most interesting, parts were when Caitlin read through Ingrid’s journal entries, and we slowly get a feel of Ingrid’s struggle over the years, of the way she was terrified of losing her mind, of her depression and her hesitation to inform her friend about this. Caitlin was more or less clueless – she knew about the cutting and the depression, to a certain extent. But she didn’t know about the pills, or Ingrid’s raw thoughts that resonated so deeply with me. If only she’d confided in Caitlin, maybe things would have worked out differently. That’s probably the part that hurts the most.
“ You might be looking for reasons but there are no reasons. The sun stopped shining for me is all.”
The first part of the book vividly shows the journey of a teenager as she deals with grief and suicide. Caitlin’s actions feel numb and automatic, she hides and pushes everyone away, she leaves her parents baffled as they try to be there for their hurt daughter. Slowly, though, we see a beginning change in Caitlin. The overall tone of the book is sad, but there’s also that notion that change can be beautiful, and that’s where the beauty of the novel lies.
This isn’t an exciting, eventful tale; there’s not a lot going on. Yet there’s so much happening, although most of it is inside of Caitlin as she learns how to deal with the shock, as she finds her best friend’s journal, as she finds a new friend at school, as she grows closer to the popular boy, as she builds a tree house, as she learns to find comfort in her photography. There is tremendous growth in Caitlin as the story progresses, which is beautiful to behold, until eventually, there is acceptance.
There’s only one point of issue for me, and that’s that I wanted more. I wanted more of Ingrid, more of her journal entries, so I could get inside her head the way I was inside Caitlin’s. Having said that, it still felt incredibly real, and what we got from Ingrid was believable and good.
I’m not an expert on mental health books, but I know this is a good one. It’s poignant, evocative, and illustrious, and does the subject justice. Definitely a story that will linger.