Book Review: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour. Penguin, 2019. 9780142422939. 256pp.

This book has been on my shelf for far too long. When I finally picked it up the other day I could not put it down. I’ve never loved a book this infused with sadness, and I can’t imagine I’ll read a better YA novel this year. (If it looks familiar, it may be because it came out in 2017 and won the Printz.) The less you know about the book the better, I think, but below is a summary that’s as un-spoilery as I can make it.

Marin fled across the country from the Bay Area where something terrible happened. It’s clear it probably had something to do with her grandfather. She moved in with him after her mother died and they lived at the beach where her mom had loved to surf. Her and her grandfather’s lives were strangely and kind of amazingly separate in some ways — he was a poetic guy who spent lots of time alone and exchanged love letters with his Birdie. But Marin had a best friend, Mabel, and life with her grandfather seemed normal. But then whatever happened happened, and Marin ran off to her university, abandoning Mabel and whatever was developing between them. Now Mabel is coming to visit her in her university dorm where, over Christmas break, she’s the only person in residence. Marin is nervous and excited and not sure what she’s going to say. (Minor spoiler: What happened and why she fled comes out, because how could it not.)

Poetic, precise, and oh so well constructed, this is a book my wife, my daughter, and I will talk about for months, and one that I’m going to be recommending for far longer.


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