Google+ Reading Teen: {Giveaway} BELZHAR by Meg Wolitzer

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

{Giveaway} BELZHAR by Meg Wolitzer

BELZHAR
by Meg Wolitzer
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (September 30, 2014)
Language: English
Goodreads | Amazon

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, signed up for an exclusive, supposedly life-changing class called Special Topics in English that focuses—only and entirely—on the works of Sylvia Plath.

But life isn’t fair. Reeve has been gone for almost a year and Jam is still mourning.

When a journal-writing assignment leads Jam into a mysterious other world she and her classmates call Belzhar, she discovers a realm where the untainted past is restored, and she can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But, as the pages of her journal begin to fill up, Jam must to confront hidden truths and ultimately decide what she’s willing to sacrifice to reclaim her loss.
Today Becca reviewed BELZHAR and really enjoyed it, make sure you check out her letter here! I thought I'd share the Belzhar love by giving one of you my extra ARC copy!

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64 comments:

  1. Amanda P. @ Of Specs and BooksOctober 7, 2014 at 12:23 AM

    I have heard nothing but great things about this book! I really want to read it and see what all the hype is about!! :)

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  2. Amanda P. @ Of Specs and BooksOctober 7, 2014 at 12:24 AM

    Thanks for the giveaway, Andye! I've been dying to see what all the hype is about concerning this book! :)

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  3. looks like an excellent read, no matter what I am going to read this book. Thanks!

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  4. Christina R. in the rafflecopter


    LOVE your review! I love how it's about a wonderful character (her name is awesome!!) and I love how it's character driven but has a touch of magic.


    Lovely review :)

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  5. Jolien De LandsheerOctober 7, 2014 at 5:40 AM

    Thanks for the giveaway! I've been hearing some buzz about this book for a while, I am excited to read it.

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  6. Jolien De LandsheerOctober 7, 2014 at 5:42 AM

    I've been hearing some people talk abotu this book and the synopsis sounds intriguing; seeing htat you gave it 4 stars makes me even more excited to read it -I haven't read the Bell Jar either, oops.

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  7. This is actuality the first I have heard of this book. A very helpful review.

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  8. This sounds exactly like my type of book!

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  9. I actually read the ebook already. but I wanna have a paperback cause I enjoyed it than I expected. Thanks for the giveaway! :)

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  10. I didnt expect that ending! I WAS LIKE OH, I DIDNT SEE THAT COMING! But when I read that Meg thanked Adele Griffin on the acknowledgements, I got it. Good thing, I didn't read the back part or else it would have spoiled the whole thing. Surprisingly, the book stuck with me. That must say something


    PS. I liked Casey too!

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  11. I'm super excited to read this book !!!

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  12. wow... t his sounds very interesting!!! thanks for sharing!

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  13. I'm so excited to read this book, it looks So. Good. Definitely one of my most anticipated releases of the year.

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  14. I love a book that even when over, leaves you still in the pages.

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  15. Dear Belzhar: I was thinking about reading you. Now that I've read Becca's open letter to you, I must have you ASAP! (Though I might re-read THE BELL JAR beforehand.)

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  16. This actually sounds extremely good! Boarding school stories are always fun, but I like the unique slant of a *re-hab* school! Gotta read this <3

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  17. I love LOVE books based at boarding schools, I mean, Hogwarts anyone? Sounds really original, can't wait to land a copy! Thanks for the review :D

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  18. I like the letter format of this review!

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  19. Jen-Jenuine CupcakesOctober 8, 2014 at 12:42 PM

    Disclaimer: I love you. :) *fist bump* On how homeschoolers and Christianity are poorly portrayed more often than not.

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  20. So true. And this is why I decided on self-publishing a ya romance that deals with Christianty. I had an agent say the content fell in between aba/cba market and would be too touchy to sell.. It's a fine line to be respectful yet realistic.

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  21. Yeah, a part of the fictional writer's worry in Afterworlds is wondering if she'd be pissing off Hindus. In comes in the form of worrying that her mother will hate it (well, for another reason as well). That doesn't mean that it isn't offensive to some. ARGH it's hard. Especially since this may be the first time some people are exposed to the religion.

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  22. It is ironic how opposing the ideals of tolerance and free speech can be at times, isn't it? As an author, I've been completely gobsmacked over what a reader has found offensive, as well as stunned over how they've interpreted a scene - or misinterpreted it in my estimation. I loved Eleanor & Park. I loved Park. I mean really, really loved Park. I didn't think of him as Korean so much as a flawed human struggling to find his place. But I'm not Korean, so maybe that's why that part of his persona didn't resonate as much as the flawed part did.

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  23. It's so true! Tolerance and free speech can sometimes seem at odds with each other. As well as realism vs what we want people to behave like.


    I agree with you about Park, as far as how I read him. He was just a kid that had insecurities, like we all did/do, and his happened to revolve around his race. But, like you, I'm not Korean, and have never actually encountered people who were (openly, at least) hostile/racist/prejudice against Koreans, so I didn't even think about it. This will definitely open my eyes to that, though.

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  24. That's kind of what I figured. I wonder if the writer of the "press release" actually read the book entirely. But still, it's a touchy subject.

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  25. Yeah, it really is! I tend to like it when books start out with realism, but then add some kind of enlightenment for the character, if that makes sense.

    I think that's what Ellen was hoping for with Park's character.

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  26. Great post, Andye. Really gets you thinking. I know this is making a complicated situation really simple, but I think that, at the end of the day, it's important to remember that it's all fiction. I mean, that's the bottom line... portrayal or not, it's not meant to be TRUTH, just the author's truth for that particular story. For example, I believe God is full of love and has given me Grace once and for all that I never, ever have to earn by my own behavior. But does that mean every one of my characters will? No. Not at all. We (authors) write based on the *characters'* understanding and the situation/scenery of their fictional lives; not always what we believe/know/how we perceive people/things to be. Therefore, it's not always going to align perfectly with readers.

    Disclaimer: I guarantee I've needed to take this advice myself before when reacting personally to a book/storyline/character, and I know there's a high likelihood that I'll need to take it again. This advice isn't as easy to take when something "hits home", I know; hence why the key word for us to always remember (in my opinion) is FICTION. :)

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  27. Keep in mind; religion is also fiction.

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  28. So glad you wrote this post Andye! I think everyone can read into what an author wrote and perceive prejudice against everyone/anything. Books should get us talking and thinking about life, not be placated by untruths. We all have faults and do dumb things, no matter what our race or religion. I think authors write what they feel, but the readers decide how to ingest it. Books and reading is so subjective, that unless it's blatantly offensive we can argue the meaning behind any story.

    Disclaimer: I <3 Anyde, Ellen O, Scott Westerfeld, and all writers who put their hearts and souls into their stories.

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  29. I agree that it is Fiction (written by flawed humans), and we should remind ourselves and our kids of that often. But I do still think that people (especially teens/kids) can read things and believe them. Especially with the kind of reverence that some have for certain authors. So, if you KNOW that your opinion on something, or your portrayal of something will influence people's thoughts, do you change your writing at all? ...ponderings :P

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  30. Disclaimer: I <3 you too! :D

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  31. Julie Haselhuhn JonesOctober 8, 2014 at 4:37 PM

    Well I didn't get all the way through afterworld's to have an opinion. But I am aware that this is fiction . Do I always like how LDS ( mormons) are/ is portrayed in books ?? No I don't but it doesn't offend me either. I know that this is fiction.


    I also take it will a grain of salt knowing that I am bringing my life experiences to reading a book. I am not always going to like every book that I read.

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  32. I fully agree! There is no absolute truth, no obvious line. Obviously not everyone will be happy with everything.

    I think it is important to look at intentions. It is one thing one an author is blatently hateful (not okay). Another when he/she is bringing in ideas, pulling from cultures, values and using them as stepping stones in world building (okay). Even if someone doesnt like it, sometimes they just need to get over it.

    Of course this doesn't mean people will not be offended. But, maybe when they are offended the author can listen to the offense, and say "oh, I didn't mean to be hurtful to you." Obviously, that might not make the hurtee feel better.

    I believe the idea of conflict resolution like this is cool. Someone being understanding. Someone else giving grace when they were hurt.

    I guess that isn't something that really happens much in the public world, let alone with books. But the sentiment is nice.

    I recently read an article called the "angry asian" which covered this in a lot more depth, using a specific example. Maybe I can find it.

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  33. Awesome post Andye!




    * I'm about 3/4 through Afterworlds and I think it's an interesting point but one that the the protag author struggles with as well and even discusses it with her Hindu friend. So I think Westerfeld was intentional in his actions as an author and meant for it to become a talking point. After all, that's kind of the point... Afterworlds explores the writing process and all the things authors have to do/consider when writing.
    * What you said... I don't know if it's disrespectful because that lies with the reader and everyone's emotions are valid. Do I think it was intentional disrespect? No, but I get Zed's point and it is valid. I also really like Afterworlds because it's introduced me to a new religion and now I'm reading nonfiction around Hindu gods. I don't think this is a mutually exclusive situation.
    * Reading fiction (YA or otherwise) is the reader's responsibility! It's FICTION!!! Which means that I, as a reader, expect there to be discrepancies when reading fiction. Now if I want to go spout bits of Hindu knowledge then I have the responsibility to explore nonfiction texts on Hindu and educate myself. As a educator (I'm not a parent) I would encourage students to learn how to research items they find in fiction to develop their own conclusions using nonfiction sources.
    * I feel very strongly about not "simplifying" YA so no subject matter should be off hands, including the portrayal of religion. It's not a reading level but a point of view.

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  34. I really like the cover and the boarding school theme!

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  35. This is an interesting discussion and I think that there are different standards that get applied to Middle Grade/YA than to "adult" fiction. I don't necessarily think there are topics that should be labeled as hands off, but a lot of times younger people are/can be more strongly affected by the things they read and have a harder time differentiating between fact and fiction.

    I think that there should be some sort of thought about the way certain things will be perceived, but the truth is, no author is going to be able to perceive the way every single person who reads (or hears about) their book is going to react. If we did this, no one would probably write anything.

    So much of the way we respond to books is related to our own experiences and as writers, we need to think beyond ourselves, but this can be difficult to do. I never considered the issue of culture with Park in Eleanor and Park as being denigrating to Koreans - like many of you I just saw him as a teen who is in conflict with his background and trying to determine who he is as an individual (like most teens do). But, like many of you, I'm not of Korean background.

    And, as you pointed out, Andye, no one seems to bat an eye anymore when a Christian character is portrayed in a poor light (if I had a dollar for every corrupt pastor in books, tv, and movies...) but for me this is a sensitive issue as a believer who is also a pastor's kid. (Throw in homeschooler there too and I'm like the trifecta of often-badly-portrayed characters)

    I haven't read Afterworld, so I can't comment on it directly, but I will say that one thing that bothers me about most YA/MG fiction is that religion (of any kind) is basically a taboo topic. Every other subject you can imagine is dealt with, but matters of faith don't belong unless it's a "Christian" book put out by a "Christian" publisher (And I'm not meaning Christian exclusively, just using that as an example). When for many young people faith is a big part of their lives and part of growing up is figuring out where you stand with faith - whether it's the one you were raised in or ones you start exploring out of curiosity. And even if there are ones that include it, it's usually about someone turning away from their faith because of the horrible things that have happened in their family/community/etc.

    One of the things I really loved about Rae Carson's Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy was the way religion/faith was part of the world. I always find it unbelievable when there is a world (be it fantasy or dystopian) where there is no religion/faith/belief system AT ALL.

    And that was a very long rant. I apologize, but thank you for opening up this discussion!

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  36. What a great post! IMO, in our world today many are quick to take offence to things that are said, written, and portrayed far too quickly. I think, that society should just stop screaming racism, sexism, homophobia, religionism, and the bevy of other "isms" at every turn. Comedians, writers, and the populace have become terrified to say anything. Period. Isn't this why we fight against banning books? Society has become over-sensitive, IMO. Worry about the things that really matter. After all, they are just words. As my Mom and, I'm sure many others' as well once (or a hundred times) said, "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names (words, in this case) will never hurt you."
    When I was growing up, certain phrases and words were commonplace. Now, we have to check ourselves to make sure our words don't offend. We've come so far in many aspects but we've also taken so many steps back. It's quite sad really.
    If I took offence to every blonde joke or every slam against my heritage I'd be too busy to enjoy life. Instead I choose to laugh along. Great discussion Andye!

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  37. The beauty of intellectual freedom is that we can express ourselves however we choose---read what we choose, write what we choose, say what we choose. So should an author censor himself or herself in the name of responsibility? And can we really ever consider censorship responsible, even if it spares some hurt feelings? As a librarian, I don't think so. I believe that we as readers must decide what is right for us, individually, recognizing the concerns that others might have about our reading choices but ultimately making those choices for ourselves.


    I also think that it is important to try to read characters as individuals, not as stand-ins for an entire group, whether that be an ethnic group, a religious group, or a social group. Just because our experience of our religion or ethnicity looks one way does not mean that another individual's (or character's) experience might not look another way. Now that's not to say that no authors write to stereotypes that are limiting or offensive, but we as readers must look critically at the characters each time we read and decide for ourselves about the author's intentions and final creation.

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  38. Agree completely with what you said, Meghann! I'm glad that you're enjoying Afterworlds though! :)

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  39. I wondered the exact thing when I read this article. Because, if they had? Yeah, I think some of their points would've changed completely.

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  40. This comment is freaking awesome.

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  41. Seriously. It's not what you would expect, but it rocks. I hope you enjoy Natalie! :)

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  42. Thanks Susan! :)

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  43. DUDE ME EITHER!!!!!! It was so so so good, but I'm glad I didn't know there was a twist or whatever before going into it. It suck with me too. I'm still thinking about it!

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  44. Aw thanks Mary! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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  45. Eh, I don't necessarily think you have to read The Bell Jar to read it so no worries, Jolien! I do hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did though!

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  46. Thanks Christina!! I know! I loved her name. SO UNIQUE! Enjoy :)

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  47. Good idea Darlene! Enjoy! :)

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  48. *pushes book* Lol seriously girl. It's great!

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  49. I read Afterworlds a few days ago, and I loved it. I, personally, did not have any problem with the use of Yamaraj, but they was possibly because I myself don't believe in Hinduism. Honestly, the book shouldn't be very criticized since the use of Yamaraj was not a big deal. Yes, he was from Hindu's scripture, but he was reworked in a way, so that you didn't see the god anymore, he was just a teenage boy with the same name as the person from Hinduism.
    Having said that, I understand where they are coming from. The Hindus may not want their religion used in a fictional story, and as YA hotness. I would probably be just as mad if a good I read portrayed atheists as terrible, immoral people because that actually pertains to me.
    Maybe my opinion on this book is invalid because I have absolutely no personal connection to Hinduism ergo it doesn't bother me that Yamaraj was used for the love interest.
    I'm just going to end this with saying that you should read this book because it was very good, and then you can decide if it really matters that Yamaraj was originally a very important Hindu figure.

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  50. Was this boy just a boy with the God's name, or was he supposed to be the God himself? If the character is actually supposed to be the God then I agree, in YA literature the author should feel a responsibility to not trample on religious material. If this were an adult book, I would say go right ahead, you have freedom of speech. There are so many other Gods and demi-gods in Greek and Roman literature, who are not worshipped, to choose a character from. Why use an actual religious figure in a YA book? It makes no sense to me.

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  51. The way I look at it they're just telling stories. Stories someone made up, it's not about you. They're about a fake person in a fake life. Laugh it off. Life's too short to take everything so seriously.

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  52. Thanks for the review! I'm doubly thankful for the non-spoilers:) I find it hard to review without giving away pieces of the book!

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  53. I've heard a lot about this book. I really want to read it. Can't wait to get me hands on it. Great review!

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  54. Yeah, I was just thinking, if someone took Jesus, and changed him to make him different, then made him someone's boyfriend, how would everyone like that? But then I remembered..."The Last Temptation of Christ"


    So, yeah. That happened. :P

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  55. Good for you for being able to separate that! :D

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  56. Haha, I literally just "heard" the mic drop in my head. Great points, Meghann.

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  57. I agree SO MUCH! Any time anyone even mentions God or trying to figure out their spirituality, people automatically say the book was "preachy." I really don't understand that at all. Like you said, tons of teens are struggling with what they believe, or it's at least something that's on their minds sometimes (I know it was something I struggled with as a teen), but most books are either hostile toward religion (mostly Christianity) or ignore it completely.

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  58. Thanks Teresa! Yeah, it's always a fine line between not hurting people's feelings and going completely the opposite way to the point where you're afraid to say anything. Or worse, the fact that there are people out there who are just combing through looking for something to pounce on.

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  59. "I also think that it is important to try to read characters as individuals, not as stand-ins for an entire group" <<< yes! This!

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  60. Thanks Belle! I just got the audiobook, so I'm going to check it out.

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  61. I love the title, the cover, the premise, and the fact that it is a quick read (I could use it right now for my reading slump, lol), so yeah, sounds and looks great to me. Thanks for the wonderful giveaway. :)

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  62. There's been a lot of hype for this book and I really want to read it. The main idea, I think has been done before, but the author has definitely added new details that make me curious as to what happened.

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