Hold Still by Nina LaCour
Hold Still is the 5th book I am reading for Mental Health Awareness Month and is a captivating book about a girl, Caitlin, who is trying to survive the death of her best friend, Ingrid, who killed herself at the end of sophomore year. Although the books starts slow, and I was questioning if I would like Caitlin as a character, about a third in, it picks up speed as Caitlin comes to terms with the death of her friend, and learns that life moves on.
The book is split into five parts: Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer Again.
Summer is short. There is not much dialogue. Caitlin is going through depression, and you can hear the worry in her parents voices, and even in the voices of people she comes in contact with, like a bus driver. And then it is September and she must go back to school.
Fall starts with Caitlin up in the middle of the night and taking a picture of her house and sleeping in her car. The start of the school year is tough. She expects everyone to be talking about Ingrid's death, but even worse, no one is talking about it. People do whisper about Caitlin, the friend of the girl who killed herself. Her favorite teacher that she thought would be her saving grace, Ms. Delani, is ignoring her, making the start of school even more aggravating.
We also meet a few very important characters: Dylan, a new girl; Jayson, the boy Ingrid had a crush on; and Taylor, a boy in Caitlin's class who becomes important to her.
After the first week of school. Caitlin is looking for a missing remote in her room when she finds on of Ingrid's journals. Caitlin decides after reading the first entry to only read a little at the time. Through the entries, she learns some of Ingrid's deepest and darkest secrets that Ingrid never told her.
Slowly, Caitlin builds a relationship with Dylan, who has her own rumors following her as well. Although it starts rocky, they build their friendship, and it is the start of Caitlin realizing that she doesn't need Ingrid to feel like someone.
Her dad buys her some lumber so that she can build something. At first, she isn't sure of what to do with it, but eventually decides to build a tree house. This project helps Caitlin open up to herself, and after an emotional breakdown, with her parents.
Caitlin and Jayson bond over their mutual missing of Ingrid, and their regrets. As she mourns, she also develops a crush, and eventual relationship with Taylor. Through the course of the book, she brings each of them to a shut down theater that Ingrid and her used to always go to.
By the time it is Summer Again, Caitlin is learning how to move through this and is living life again. She has read through the journal and dispersed different pages to different people: Ingrid's brother, Ingrid's parents, Dylan. She has also mended her relationship with Ms. Delani and has re-found her love of photography. She gives Ms. Delani a passage from the journal where Ingrid praised her, so that Ms. Delani would know how important she was to Ingrid.
She finishes the year with watching the demolition of the theater and throwing a Tree House Party.
What I Liked
- Caitlin's stages of grief are very real. She feels everything as she mourns the death of her friend, and as the reader, you witness all of it.
- All of the characters are very likable, all really care for Caitlin and play an important role in her moving on.
- Her parents are so sweet; they remind me of my parents. They want to do anything they can to help Caitlin get through this in a healthy manner.
- Through Ingrid's journal, Caitlin learns that she really didn't know as much about her best friend as she thought she knew. It just goes to show that you don't know everything about the people you are close to. Also, the signs that Ingrid did show, like the cutting, it isn't always easy to know how to react to it as a teenager when your friend shows you something like that.
What I Didn't Like
- One character that was mentioned a few times, Henry, is clearly going through something as well. At the end of the book, this happens:
"I walk inside the house. Henry is in the foyer, sitting on the edge of the fountain under s family portrait. He has been so quiet that I didn't even notice when he slipped away...Instead of going back outside right away, I sit down next to him. We don't say anything. He stares at his hands; I tug on the ends of my sweater drawstrings. Then he dips his hand in the fountain and splashes water on his family portrait. 'Life is shit,' he tells me. I nod. 'Maybe.'...'But not all the time,' I say." (p. 220)
This isn't the first instance in which Henry shows anger or that he is upset about something, but it is never discussed what is going on there. It just feels wrong.
It really took a bit for the book to get going. In the first bit of it, there isn't much conversation, just Caitlin's observations, and with her in a depression, it's not that...well, there's just not a lot going on.
When Caitlin is remembering the time that Ingrid showed her that she carved "Fuck you" into her stomach and her only response was "Fuck you too, bitch" I wanted to scream at her that she was an idiot for not telling the nurse or the counselor or her parents, anyone. In high school, when one of my friends told me that she was cutting, I told her if she did it again, I would tell the counselor. And when she did, I did exactly what I said I was going to do. Anytime she was over, I took the razors out of the bathroom, I didn't leave her alone in the kitchen with sharp knives, and I made sure she knew that I loved her. I am so furious with Caitlin for doing that.
But teenagers shouldn't have to deal with stuff like that. Ingrid shouldn't have felt so alone that cutting, random sex, and eventually killing herself was her only option. Caitlin shouldn't have to see that her friend is cutting. I read somewhere that students today have the same stress and anxiety that patients in mental facilities had in the 1950s, and that makes me sick to think. So much is expected from kids today, it just isn't fair of them.
As a teenager, I felt like I had to fix everything, and I had to do it by myself otherwise it wasn't right. As an adult, I've learned that if you surround yourself with the right people, you don't have to. By the end of the novel, Caitlin has surrounded herself with those people and she knows that if she were ever to stumble, they would be there for her.
Throughout the novel, Caitlin references a mixed tape that Ingrid's brother made her. At the end of the novel, the author, Nina LaCour, tells you what songs were on that mixed tape. I think it is so awesome that the author would do that! So here they are.
- "Close to Me" by The Cure
- "Les Étoiles Secrètes" by Ida
- "I'm Not Going Anywhere Tonight" by Owen
- "We Will Become Silhouettes" by The Postal Service
- "More Adventurous" by Rilo Kiley
- "Get Away From Me, I'm Dying" by Belle and Sebastian
- "Bowl of Oranges" by Bright Eyes
- "A Fond Farewll" by Elliot Smith
- "Call It Off" by Tegan and Sara
- "I Feel It All" by Feist
I'm going to go make a playlist of this, since my car doesn't even have a CD slot let along a cassette spot. Enjoy!
Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction