Marlena by Julie Buntin

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Publication Date: April 4th, 2017

This review does not contain spoilers.

This is a sort of coming of age story that centers around the main character Cat ,who is living and working in New York, but primarily focuses on flashbacks into her past in Michigan, and the time she spent with her former best friend Marlena. Marlena passed away within the year that Cat first met her; however, Cat remembers this year vividly as the year she experienced many of her ‘firsts’. Marlena gets Cat involved in the bad crowds, pill popping, smoking, alcohol, and promiscuous behavior. It is with Marlena, that Cat experiences her first kiss, first drink, first cigarette, and many more firsts. Bad decisions, and regrets become the norm for Cat as she becomes closer to Marlena. When Marlena is found drowned in the water in the woods nearby, (that is not a spoiler) Cat’s world is flipped upside down as she struggles to cope with what happened, and blames herself for not helping Marlena the way she felt she should have.

As for my thoughts, I really enjoyed reading this. This book definitely brought on a sort of nostalgia of my teenage years. I found myself reminiscing on the memories I shared with my best friend in high school and all of the crazy stupid decisions we made together at the time.

I really felt for Cat as she told her story about her time in Michigan with Marlena, and how she watched Marlena spiral out of control with her drug use. Cat felt like she was in the background, unable to do anything to help, because Cat was slowly getting more involved in that scene as well. I don’t think Cat was able to see clearly what was going on around her until after Marlena was found dead. I also really enjoyed the authors writing style, and there were a lot of beautifully written sentences that made you feel as if you were right there with Cat as she tells this story to you.

I am not sure if this is considered a YA novel or not. The majority of the story is told from the time period that Cat was a teenager, and if it is, it sure doesn’t seem like the typical YA novel. I found it quite ‘literary’, whereas you don’t see that often in YA novels, which is why I never read them.  I am definitely interested in picking up anything else that she writes in the future. I rated this 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

-Carissa

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