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.
I went into this book not knowing anything about it. I knew Nina of course, I’ve read one of her books before and even without that, it’s rather hard to have any kind of interest in ya literature & not recognise her name. In any case, I was looking for a book that would make me feel and my friend told me to read We Are Okay. I will never be able to thank her for that rec enough.
We Are Okay tells a very simple story of a girl who’s trying to come to terms with grief and build her life anew. It spans barely a few days, if you don’t count flashbacks, and in terms of a plot, of exciting events – not much really happens. And that’s okay. Because the strength of this novel lies with the characters, the emotions they feel and that they make you feel.
Marin grew up in San Francisco with her grandfather. It’s where she met her best friend Mabel, it’s where she became the person she was & knew. But it’s not where we meet her – we see her for the first time at college in New York, surrounded by snow. And loneliness.
That loneliness, together with grief, are two most prominent themes of We Are Okay. Because while it may be a simple book, it’s not exactly easy. The emotions it deals with are raw and they make you catch your breath, and they punch you straight in the heart. It works all the better for this being such a universal, relatable story. Who of us hasn’t lost someone? Who of us hasn’t been lost themselves at times? Who of us hasn’t felt like there’s just nothing to do to make it all better?
Woven seamlessly into this is also the fact of Marin being a lesbian which I loved for so many reasons but mainly because it was never a Thing™. Even if her relationship was a huge part of the book. I’m too old and too bitter to read the tragic coming-out stories so I’m extremely happy here it was just a given and we simply moved onto the loving someone part. And even more so that the relationship wasn’t shown as straightforward & uncomplicated but rather as something that’s a part of Marin’s life, that’s tangled together with everything else.
And that’s the thing with Nina’s writing in this book really. She takes every little aspect of Marin’s life, every little emotion and cradles it in her hands like it’s something precious. Like it’s something worthy of protection and of our full attention. She allows Marin to truly feel everything that happened to her, to digest everything at her own pace and at the same time to accept help from others. It’s a beautiful story told in the most gentle & calm way and even though it’s a story of grief, it’s incredibly warm & hopeful.