Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer is everywhere right now, receiving high praise by nearly everyone.
So without knowing anything about this book I checked it out. Which turned out to be a fantastic decision.
Going into reading Belzhar I had a bit of a negative feeling simply because I had my Megs goofed up. For some reason, I was thinking Meg Rosoff in my head, and not Meg Wolitzer. No offense to Meg Rosoff, but I recall reading a book by her years ago (highly praised) that I just didn't much enjoy, so when I thought Belzhar was by her I was somewhat skeptical.
Luckily I decided to read the back flap about the author which is when I had my a-ha moment and realized I had the wrong author in mind.
And luckily I didn't read the front flap because there is magical realism in Belzhar which isn't a huge turn-on for me.
Those few things aside, I fell in love with this book from page one. The magical realism aspect isn't introduced immediately, which I always am appreciative of, because I was totally invested in the characters and story by the time that came into play.
Jam has been sent to a school for teens with issues because of the death of her boyfriend, Reeve. She is selected for a special English class that will read the works of Sylvia Plath over the course of a semester. These students also receive a journal to write about their issues. And what they discover is they are able to go back to the time just before the crisis they are trying to deal with and overcome has occurred.
This special place is called Belzhar, sounding much like Plath's book The Bell Jar.
Jam's relationship with Reeve and his death are slowly revealed as are the other students' issues. The group works to help each other, and eventually talk about this special gift of time travel with their English teacher who happens to be retiring.
I'll think about this book for a long time - not because of the magic in it but because of the way in which Wolitzer developed her characters and allowed them to be human.
Belzhar's praise is well deserved and is a book I would highly recommend to high school students and other young adults.