We Are Okay Review: A Quiet Contemplation of Grief

March 3, 2017 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 3 stars, Books, Reviews

We Are Okay Review: A Quiet Contemplation of GriefWe Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers on February 14th 2017
Source: Purchased
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT
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You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…
Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

Grief. There’s so many different ways to experience it. There’s the shock, where someone who you loved is now gone, leaving behind emptiness. There’s the anger and the regret, wishing you spent more time with them and wondering why they were taken away. Then there’s the quieter type of grief, where you just need some time to reflect on your own about the good and bad times you had with each other.

We Are Okay deals with the quieter side of grief, where Marin has moved away from her home after losing her grandfather. He is the only family that she’s ever had, so there’s no one else she can rely on. Until she remembers her best friend Mabel, who she’s cut out of her life but has now flown across America to see how she’s doing. Here, most of the story unfolds as Mabel jogs her memory of her old life and her home.

Set over the Summer break, we find out about Marin’s grief and deep seated emotions which lead her to run away from everything she’s ever known. It’s a slow reveal, as she comes to terms with losing her grandfather, doesn’t want to escape the comfort of her new life and realises she doesn’t need to deal with it all alone. Her journey is a beautiful one, wrought with heartfelt emotion and angst, and one that packs a punch. It’s not often you read about the bond with a girl and her grandfather, and We Are Okay captured it beautifully.  I loved how we experienced her memories with her grandfather and the quiet camaraderie they shared. 

It’s strange how well We Are Okay captured the intense feeling of loneliness, especially since Marin is accompanied by Mabel throughout most of the book. It’s clear these girls share a close bond, as they know each other so well, from their favourite snacks, to knowing when they don’t feel like speaking, to being comfortable in each other’s presence. While Mabel clearly cares a lot about Marin, I didn’t really get a great sense of who she was as a person, outside of her feelings for Marin and her large, Mexican-American family.

It was terrifying, the idea that we could fall asleep girls, minty breathed and nightgowned, and wake to find ourselves wolves.

The book also explores the relationship between Marin and Mabel, as they were best friends who progressed into lovers. Their relationship is sweet, with a lot of unresolved feelings which are explored further as the book progresses. I loved how their sexuality was depicted in meaningful way, without being too preoccupied with labels. We definitely don’t have enough lesbian relationships in YA and this one was done beautifully.

We Are Okay explores grief, loneliness and the bond with a girl and her grandfather in a heartfelt and poignant manner. At it’s shorter length, it packs an emotional punch, beautifully putting together the pieces of the puzzle throughout the book. It was also wonderful seeing the complexity of a best friend to lovers romance explored between two girls. However, while I enjoyed the book, I didn’t feel like it was incredibly memorable and I’ll forget it in a month’s time. 

Check out my review on Nina’s other book, Everything Leads to You.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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30 responses to “We Are Okay Review: A Quiet Contemplation of Grief

  1. Olivia-Savannah

    It's funny because I have seen the cover to this one around a lot, but didn't actually know much about the book at all. This one sounds heart breaking, and intense because of how deeply the emotions get through to the reader. As someone who has experienced loss before, and am more of the quiet kind when it comes to that as well, I am sure I will feel for that as well.

  2. mypaperinfinity

    Great review. I'm reading this right now and so far I agree with what you've said. I like it and I enjoy reading it, but nothing is really sticking. I'm not relating to the characters as I thought I would. Nina LaCour does get props for beautifully handling the relationship between Marin and Mabel. You're right; there are definitely not enough lesbian relationships in YA

  3. Grace @ RebelMommyBB

    This is one that has been on my radar. It sounds like a beautiful book about grief. You are right that there aren't enough books that have lesbian relationships in YA. Great review!

  4. Sunny @ A Sunny Spot

    This is the first I've heard about We Are Okay and based on your review and the praise her other novel has received, I'll have to check it out sometime! I'm interested to see how her slow and quieter grief plays out and how she and Mabel turn into lovers – YAY FOR DIVERSE FICTION!! Such a shame it wasn't too memorable. Thanks for sharing 😀

  5. This one sounds truly lovely Jeann but perhaps a little on the cliche side? I love the sound of the gentle progression from friends to lovers and completely agree that we need more female same sex romances in YA, lesbian and bisexualty both. I'm a little worried that it uses love as a cure for grief and I hope that's not the case. Wonderful review Jeann, really enjoyed it <3 <3

    • Ohhh it definitely doesn\’t sound unique when I describe it, but I\’m glad it featured a lesbian relationship and the one between a girl and her grandfather. I haven\’t seen many books that explore that which is lovely. Thankfully it doesn\’t use it as a cure for grief, because that would be the worst. Thank you lovely!

  6. I've heard some pretty great things about this book, and since I really liked Everything Leads to You I really want to check it out!

    I think grief is something that isn't a topic that is explored A LOT in YA. And I feel like grandchild-grandparent relationships are explored even less. So I think the fact that this book brings the two of these things together is kind of great. Although I have a feeling it could be heartbreaking.

    I like the sound of the exploration of Marin and Mabel's relationship, especially after having been apart for so long.

    I'm sorry this one didn't blow you away, Jeann! But I'm glad you liked it overall <3

    • It\’s so weird, I feel like I\’ve read SO many books about grief but that\’s because I seek them out. For some reason I\’m really drawn to books about emotions and mental conditions. I think you will really enjoy this book, but you definitely need to be in the mood for it!

    • I KNOW! I absolutely loved the cover and the fact that it was by Nina LaCour absolutely caught my eye too! Yay, I\’m glad that you loved the sound of it!

  7. I haven’t read Everything Leads To You, but I have heard amazing things about it, and it’s why We Are Okay is also on my TBR. I’m glad you enjoyed this Jeann, even though it’s slightly forgettable! I am always a fan of female friendship, and I probably could relate to the loneliness aspect. I’ll hopefully get to it soon, as it seems like a quick-ish read.
    Valerie recently posted…Review: Denton Little’s Still Not DeadMy Profile

    • Yesss, I’m so glad that they’re both on your TBR but omg you must read Everything Leads to You. I feel like it’s such an under the radar book but it’s definitely one of my favourite contemporaries! Yeah, I read this one all in a day. The short reads are really helping my slump!

    • YAY! Yesss I ended up just turning Intense Debate for now because I’m not sure why it’s not working. Yeah, it was a super quick read, I read it in a few hours!

    • Thanks Resh, yeah you definitely need to be in the mood to read a heavy emotional read! This one was a good one for the topic of grief definitely 🙂

  8. I read this last month and really enjoyed it. I love books that span across a short time span, because you get a really good glimpse into the characters’ minds and are able to learn more about them that way. The relationship between Marin and Mabel was definitely one that was both heartwarming and heartbreaking. While I enjoyed the book, I didn’t love it enough to read again, either.
    Kelly @ Here’s to Happy Endings recently posted…Review: 10 Things I Can See From Here by Carrie Mac – Blog Tour!My Profile

    • Yeah, it was interesting exploring their close relationship and you could definitely tell there was a lot of unresolved feelings between them. I’m glad you ended up enjoying it as well, Kelly!

    • Thanks Marie! It was definitely a beautifully written and enjoyable read that was quietly emotional, but yes I hope you do pick it up too!

    • Hehe yes I knew you would love it Emily, the contemporary queen! Yes I did love Everything Leads to You. You know how contemporary isn\’t really my thing hahaha.

  9. Sorry to hear this was average Jeann! I have yet to read anything Nina LaCour but I have high hopes after hearing such positive things! And I totally get the feeling where you’re excited for this book that you believe to be amazing and you find it to fall quite flat!

    • Yesss I love Everything Leads to You so much Anisha, it is one of my fav contemporaries of all time! I guess I had super high hopes for this one.

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