When sixteen-year-old Jam Gallahue arrives at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in Vermont, she has to put the devastation of her life in New Jersey behind her. Or try to do so. She must forget all about the boy she loved for forty-one days. The British exchange student named Reeve Maxfield.
Almost immediately, she is drawn into a group of students in a very unique English class, taught by Mrs. Quenell.
None of the students know why each one has been chosen, but the class sets them apart in many ways. First of all, they study only one writer throughout the semester. And a big part of what they do involves special journals in which they are urged to write. During this semester, these students will be studying Sylvia Plath.
What happens to each of them when they write in those journals? Where do they go, and how does the special place they call Belzhar (created from the title The Bell Jar) help them heal?
Even as they draw closer to the traumas in their lives through their time in Belzhar, they are also bonding with one another. Now they are forced to decide what to do when the journals fill up. How will they “let go” of Belzhar and move on? And what surprises await Jam when she finally confronts what happened between her and Reeve? With each trip to Belzhar, more about the traumas of each character is revealed.
Narrated in Jam’s first person voice, we are slowly offered glimpses into her emotional life, and finally, surprisingly, we are shown what really happened between Jam and Reeve, a twist I didn’t see coming.
Belzhar was a unique journey into the emotional traumas of each character, like a magical voyage that could finally help them each deal with their losses. A beautiful story that left me remembering what it felt like to be emotionally raw with all that teenage angst, and how a new perspective can change everything. 5.0 stars.