Boy, do I have mixed feelings about this book. And it's hard to figure out how to talk about it here without giving spoilers, since many of my mixed feelings are about plot twists.
I can safely say--since this happens early in the book--that I'm a bit cross-eyed about the premise: Jam (short for Jamaica, where she was conceived) is a teenage girl who has become completely incapacitated by the death of her boyfriend. Now, they only dated for 25 days. But she is a teenager.
Jam's parents, completely unsure how to handle this (they've done counseling, etc.), finally send her to a special boarding school in Vermont that specializes in teens who have undergone trauma of one kind and another. Once there, Jam finds she has been assigned to a very special English class--only 5 students are in it--and the teacher focuses on just one writer for the semester. This semester? Sylvia Plath.
That calls for an awful lot of suspension of disbelief right there. Yes, The Bell Jar ends with its protagonist surviving a suicide attempt and returning to life. But anyone who knows anything about Sylvia Plath knows that she ultimately died by suicide after writing this book, closely based on an earlier experience in her life. So why would a teacher choose to teach this to a class full of kids who are in intense suffering and depression?
There is a reason, of course, one of the many spoilers I don't want to divulge. But let's just say that when it's revealed, I groaned out loud.
Part of my problem with the book is the feeling of what it could have been. There are magical realism elements that are interesting, but not as developed as they might have been. The characters aren't fully fleshed-out either. In the end, it made me think: this is what people who condescend about young adult books are talking about. It's not as well-written and developed as something like We Were Liars.