Monday, February 07, 2011

Review: Hold Still

Hold Still by Nina LaCour
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Amazon description:

After losing her best friend, Ingrid, to suicide, Caitlin is completely immobilized. Unable to function, and refusing to visit a therapist, she begins the long journey to wellness alone. During this year of heart-wrenching, raw emotion, Caitlin finds Ingrid's journal, which not only reveals her descent into irreversible depression, but also serves as Caitlin's vehicle for renewed hope in the future. The book is written with honesty, revealing one's pain after the loss of a loved one. Caitlin learns, with the help of new friends and her parents, that there is life after Ingrid.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Usually, I know whether I’ll like a book within the first one or two chapters. I don’t know if it’s the writing, the style, or the voice, but I usually just know. I kept changing my mind about this one, though. For me, it was really hard to get into the story. Caitlin seemed removed from what happened and didn’t show any emotions. Had I not known what this book is about, I probably wouldn’t even have understood that her friend committed suicide until later on. The fragmented sentences and scenes with no connections were confusing.

Later on, though, I understood what the author was doing. It was confusing not because the author or narrator sucked at explaining but because Nina LaCour used almost only showing and no telling, and that was really well done. In the beginning, the focus on practicalities and, for example, the way Caitlin destroys a bench and later on the fur in her car freaked me out, but later I understood that was her way of coping and she used that to hide her emotions. You have to interpret a lot, instead of everything being explained to you.

Once I started reading between the lines and (ironically) holding still every once in a while to take it all in, there was loads to love about this book. The way Caitlin dealt with her loss was realistic, and I enjoyed seeing how photography and art helped her. Her emotions and reactions were believable and relatable.

Not only Caitlin but every character was well-written, and I felt for each one of them. Despite never meeting Ingrid, I could understand what she was going through and could practically hear her voice through the diary entries. These entries were cleverly done, as the author managed to not let them become clichéd in any way. The letter-format (which I at first thought was kind of random and pointless) made these entries unique and heart-felt.

I loved Dylan’s character and her friendship with Caitlin, which seemed realistic and natural. The gay sub-plot was well-handled – I enjoyed Caitlin’s open curiosity about Dylan’s sexuality. My favorite aspect of the novel was probably that hope played such an important role in this potentially depressing story, and Caitlin’s decisions towards the end display that hope perfectly.

An aspect of the novel I didn’t quite get was the relationship between Caitlin and Taylor. He didn’t seem like the popular skater-boy he was supposed to be, and I didn’t understand why Taylor was interested in Caitlin or how that developed. I also found it strange how Caitlin knew Ingrid cut herself but never said anything. Caitlin says Ingrid’s depression was unexpected even though she knew she cut herself. I’ve never been in a situation like that, though, so I can’t really judge whether I would’ve told someone.

On a side note, in the back of my edition there is a list of the songs on Caitlin’s mix tape, and that helped me discover some great music!

All in all, this novel portrays raw emotion beautifully. While I wouldn’t recommend this to a reluctant reader, I think this is a great book for anyone willing to invest the time to do some interpreting and thinking. Even though it was hard for me to get into the story, it was definitely worth it!


  1. This book doesn't sound like my type of book, but I enjoyed reading your review very much. You explained the book and your responses so nicely. Really great review!

  2. It sounds like you have more patience than me! haha I don't think the reader should have to figure out what the author is doing. Kudos to you for sticking it out and still getting a 4/5 rating. Not easy to pull off. :)

  3. I can usually tell whether I'll love a book from the very beginning as well. It's just this feeling I get. Like you said, I just know.

    I really enjoyed this one. :)

  4. This book sounds really good! also, here is a stylish blogger award for you and your blog!

  5. What a gorgeous cover! It sounds like a good book, great review!

  6. I'm so excited to read this novel! It looks great!

  7. I've seen the hardcover to this one, as well as the paperback. Not sure which I actually liked best. Never knew about the list of songs in the back! Pretty nice.


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