“Hold Still may be the truest depiction of the aching, gaping hole left in the wake of a suicide that I’ve ever read. But it’s anything but depressing and gloomy — it’s also about the tender shoots of new relationships that grow unexpectedly out of tragedy. A haunting and hopeful book about loss, love, and redemption.”- Gayle Foreman, If I Stay
Reading this review, coming from the author of one of my favourite books- namely because the main character is a cellist- I had really high hopes for this book. I am not familiar with Nina LaCour and haven’t really heard of her until I came across this at a book store. Most people select by judging it by it’s cover (cliche, but ultimately true), the author or the description on the back. I must admit, I chose books at random. Literally. I walk into a certain section, depending on what I feel like reading and grab a couple off the shelf. My choice in books follows no rhyme or reason (actually, most things I do don’t) nor does my taste in genre. My first thoughts were ‘Man, this book is short’ (a mere 230 pages compared to The Stand’s 1153) and what a beautifully designed book cover. Ha! Judged it by its cover.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
In the wake of her best friend Ingrid’s suicide, Caitlin is left alone, struggling to find hope and answers. It’s not deeply dramatic or overly dark, and to my surprise, I found Caitlin’s story tinged with honest realism. Don’t get me wrong, she is torn up about what happened and is a mess but not in the extreme sense. She attends school, talks to people and hangs out. This book doesn’t hammer in suicide or the grief of continuing on life without that person. Which I found refreshing and made Caitlin seem more real.
As a character-focused reader, I appreciated the fact that the characters felt real and -for lack of a better phrase- three dimensional. Characters that were tangible with personalities of people you are very likely to encounter. Notably, Hold Still has no antagonist, no character that tries to sabotage Caitlin in a way to gain popularity or social power if you will. At the same time, no character is perfect. Of course, Caitlin doesn’t like everyone in her school, but none of them fall into the typical ‘bitchy and popular cheerleader’ or the ‘asshole bad boy’ type.
However, I couldn’t get over how short the book was. It covers all the bases and it didn’t have any missing pieces, but I felt LaCour could have expanded the story more. But at the same time, I felt the story didn’t overstay its welcome (conflicting views I know). I enjoyed reading this story and reading about Caitlin herself, but nothing stood out to me. At no point was I in disbelief or have to put the book down because of all my “feels”. It was a case where I saw potential and latched on to a concept, but I don’t think that message was delivered as well as it could have been.