Staff Pick

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour (2017).

Marin’s dorm room is her sanctuary.

The college freshman has taken refuge in New York, about as far as she could have managed to flee from her hometown.

But the particles of her past are stirred when her best friend from high school insists on flying in from San Francisco. Mabel’s arrival shatters Marin’s supremely bleak Christmas break.

Marin’s trauma emanates from the loss of her grandfather, who raised her in the absence of her parents. Moreover, her very sense of belonging was snapped by a surreal discovery after her ailing grandfather waded into his Pacific Ocean grave. The peculiar revelation cast doubt on Marin’s core belief that she and her grandfather shared a bond that was genuine, even if nothing else could have been depended upon.

Mabel’s arrival thaws Marin’s walls. Mabel is sensitive, but her care is unyielding. Healing is possible, the reader comes to realize.

Author LaCour’s writing style is gentle and spare. In fact, much of the story’s exposition and development is passive, being released through the erosion of Marin’s psychological defenses.

We Are Okay affirms the ultimate value of true friendship. It is a hauntingly beautiful work, and will be appreciated by young-adult readers who tend toward the contemplative. Marin’s high-school relationship with Mabel had included a romantic dimension. During Mabel’s visit, Marin comes to realize that their bond is one that transcends the laws of physical attraction.

Review by Steve Ryan