Mini Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer


title:  Belzhar

author:  Meg Wolitzer

pages: 608

format: Paperback

isbn/asin: 978-1481422345

buy it: Amazon  Goodreads  B&N

rating: 3/5 [in the genre] or 6/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  People who enjoyed Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Porter, The Breakfast Club, or boarding schools.  

will i read this author again?:  Yes.  
will i continue the series?:  N/A 
My Ratings Explained

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.

From New York Times bestselling author Meg Wolitzer comes a breathtaking and surprising story about first love, deep sorrow, and the power of acceptance.

the basics
I found that I loved this book less than I had expected; then by the end, I appreciated it more than I had been.  It's a divisive book.  I loved the twist and found it absolutely believable in the context of mental health.  But I know that same twist will make it difficult for some readers to empathize with Jam.  In my mind, Jam was very relatable.  She's an extreme, but an extreme of something that we've all felt.  Really, I thought the plot was well paced and clever.  The characters and writing disappointed me.  The writing was simplistic and often overly straightforward or overly repetitive.  The side characters didn't have distinguishable voices and, for the most part, received very little substantive attention.  It was like The Breakfast Club without the deep connections I felt to those characters.  In Belzhar, I felt like Jam was real and the others were sort of types.  So for most of the book, I found my interest flagging.  Then the twist happened, and I appreciated everything so much more.  But it's unfortunate that the specialness of the book hinges on the twist, because it was relatively average until then.  Still, if you enjoy boarding school reads, it's a quick and enjoyable book.  


  1. I've heard great things about this, but I wonder if I'll like it. I'm guessing I will feel conflicted like you. At 608 pages, it's a big investment.

    1. I think that page count is definitely wrong. Actually, I can say that for certain. My fault for not editing! It's actually pretty short and quick.