Release date: February 14th 2017
Synopsis: Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.
Diversity: LGBT+ main characters in both Marin and Mabel. Mabel’s family are Latinx and her bilingual background is shown throughout the book.
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour is a beautiful exploration of grief and love and the moments in which innocence are lost.
The plotline is so simple and emotive. Marin grew up in California and, after a terrible loss, she moves to New York for college and cuts off all ties with people from her life before.Now, it’s winter break and her best friend, Mabel, is coming to visit her at school. Marin has to confront the life she left behind – her feelings of loneliness and the relationship with Mabel that had become more than that by the end of the summer.
It’s told in present time, with flashbacks to what took place prior to the loss, and the combination of the two intertwined periods of time running in tangent with each other gives poignancy to the other.
Marin’s loss, and how it affects her and everyone around her, is relatable and painful to read about. LaCour writes these moments of uncertainty and darkness so beautifully – she never comes straight out and states what Marin is dealing with, but it’s written in such a way that everyone who has experienced this will recognise and understand. This is what those moments of dark are like – when you want to reach out and accept but doubts seep in and it’s as if you can’t trust. The drive of the story is Marin’s relationships, especially the one with her grandfather and with Mabel. Both are given equal attention and both have an impact on Marin’s view on herself and her life.
Marin and Mabels’ relationship is a sweet and teenage summer love, the kind of love that comes from falling into it with the person who knows you best – which is what makes events of the book all the more heartbreaking.
Her interactions with Gramps, however, are slowly unravelled – you have an expectation as a reader of what it must be like, and it turns on its head in small ways over the course of the story that foreshadows the ending. Gramps is seen through the eyes of a child at the beginning, infallible and flawless, and this image is slowly broken down as the realisation that her grandfather is human and flawed is brought to Marin.
We Are Okay is a short book – about 234 pages – wonderfully written and explores complicated subjects in such a real and honest way. It has its flaws – moments of deep wisdom given by strangers and, for some readers, Marin’s stubbornness might be something of an irritation – but in the moment, those flaws do not outweigh the strengths of this book. You feel Marin’s journey in your gut and it will sit with you for hours after you’ve finished.