Reviewed by Ian Duncanson, Beaverton City Library
And We Stay is written in both verse and prose, with an emphasis on the latter. Emily Beam’s junior year of high school in the mid-’90s was cut short when her boyfriend Paul took a gun to school and committed suicide in front of her in the library. Traumatized from the experience and unable to return to her normal high school, Emily has enrolled in a boarding school in Amherst, MA where she seeks comfort in being alone, writing poetry, and bonding with her new roommate. She also throws herself into the life and poetry of Emily Dickinson, finding strength and hope in the works of the dark and enigmatic American literary figure who lived and attended school in Amherst. As the story progresses, we learn more details about Emily and Paul’s relationship and what drove him to suicide.
I’m normally not one for poetry in prose stories or novels written in verse, but I thought that the poems in And We Stay (written from Emily’s perspective) were strong and provided insight into the character and her coping with violent trauma. Even though the cliché boarding school setting might elicit an initial groan, it does not play a lot into the story. Hubbard focuses more on Emily’s thoughts, growth and literary interests than on the surrounding boarding school life and antics. With school violence in the news, And We Stay is a timely story about a broken person left traumatized in the aftermath of another’s actions and healing through the support of friends.