“The trouble with denial is that when the truth comes, you aren’t ready.”
Winter break has come, and while everyone else has gone home to see families and significant others for a few weeks, Marin would be perfectly content to stay in her dorm room, alone with her grief, pretending that her life from before doesn’t exist anymore. Life is never quite that simple, though, and Mabel is coming to visit, shoving her way into Marin’s after. Marin has a lot of skeletons in her closet that need to be faced, but can she handle letting go of her denial long enough to heal – and to move forward with Mabel?
This book is intentionally vague to start off with; you realize very quickly that the grief that Marin is recovering from has something to do with her grandfather, who raised her (as her mother passed away in a surfing incident when Marin was a baby), but it takes a long time to dig into the meat of what happened, and why it was so traumatic that Marin completely ran away from her old life, as well as all of her former friends and loved ones. Due to the ambiguity of the writing, I actually felt like the beginning of the book dragged a little bit. I kept thinking that there was no way that the twist was going to be a big enough one to be worth spending the entire book drawing the scenario out, but without spoiling anything, I will just say that I was pleasantly stunned by the ending.
I didn’t realize this was an LGBTQ+ book when I picked it up – because I have somehow been living under a rock and had no idea that Nina LaCour was an LGBTQ+ own-voices author – so I was taken off-guard early in the book when the reveal occurred that Mabel was not only a former best friend, but also a former lover; the detail gave a really nice taste of tension to her entire visit, and kept me guessing as to how their relationship would end up.
The writing itself was enjoyable, though nothing truly remarkable; Marin is a likable narrator who has made some questionable choices, but not without reason. The way she desperately wants to still be liked by Mabel, despite having been the one to disappear on their friendship, felt so authentic, especially in the way her walls gradually came down. I found myself frequently frustrated by her choices, yet still completely in understanding of why she was making them.
I can’t say I really recall any parts of this book particularly touching me, making me laugh, making me pause and think, or evoking any other noteworthy opinions – until the ending, when I was completely and fully shattered. I sobbed my way through the last several chapters, and closed the back cover feeling like I had undergone some brutal, but beautiful, catharsis. The ending of this book alone solidified it as a 4-star read for me and put Nina right up near the top of my “authors I need to read more from” list.
I would recommend We Are Okay to anyone who enjoys a solid YA contemporary about grief, family (blood-related or not), positive lesbian/bi rep, and a heaping dose of heartache.