Title: We Are Okay
LaCour, Nina. "We Are Okay." New York: Dutton Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2017.
Marin is a Californian girl who lived with her grandfather until his recent passing. She leaves the West coast after the death of her main guardian, her grandfather, to start college in New York state in hopes of starting a new life and escaping some frightening discoveries about her past. The story begins with Marin staying behind at her school’s dorms while everyone is going home for the winter holidays. The building becomes eerily quiet, making it difficult for Marin’s mind to not focus on the past. She begins to prepare for a visit from her best friend, Mabel, yet there is something left unsaid about their friendship since Mabel got a boyfriend at her university. It isn’t until later that we find out that Mabel and Marin dated for a little while in the last year she was in California. Now with a distant best friend and no family, Marin has to figure out how to confront the depression that rules her current life and how she is going to rebuild a life from almost nothing. Mabel’s visit brings out the truth about what happened with Marin’s grandfather, who had never fully grieved the death of his daughter (Marin’s mother). Her grandfather was always talking about being in a relationship with an unknown woman and after his death Marin finds out that letters he had been writing for years were to his dead daughter. This is why he never talked about her mother with Marin, who feels like she didn’t really know her grandfather as well as she originally thought. It also implies that her mental health issues may be inherited. This shocks Mabel, who becomes very sympathetic towards Marin after one of their biggest fights. The story ends with Mabel’s parents coming to visit the two girls and promising Marin that they would be her family from now on.
The original story by author Nina LaCour is a young adult novel, which follows many of the conventions of that genre such as the sole focus on teenage characters and their experiences. The way queerness is brought into the narrative is subtle yet intentional, there is no hiding the fact that Marin is dealing with the process of self-discovery. LaCour has written about other queer characters and is queer herself.
I see the audience being mostly young adults who are the main audience for the book, as well as some adults. This would be at a school or public library as a part of a book talk or storytelling session about queer YA. A version of this story could be done so as to put more focus on the grieving process Marin goes through, then opening the possibility of sharing it at a grief center or group.
This story could be paired with either “Geryon, Winged Beauty” or “Source Decay”. Both of those stories go a little further into more mature queer relationships while this one explores the beginning of a personal realization and how that can affect close friendships. This story is also heavily influenced by grief and that is one of the main reasons I want to tell it. When my grandmother passed away there was a lot I had to process about her life and connection with me that wasn’t obvious, and Marin goes through a similar thing with her grandfather. This story should be told slowly when Marin is alone in the dorm to give that sense of loneliness and depression. Once Mabel comes in the picture the story would speed up, yet slowing down for the reveal about Marin’s grandfather. I can see this story being done in first person or third person depending on the venue/audience, though third person works well to get people interested in the story so as to then read the book themselves.