We Are Okay
Author: Nina LaCour
Page Count: 234
Publisher: Dutton Books
Original Publication Date: 2017
Genre(s): Young adult, Contemporary, Realistic fiction
Taking only her phone, her wallet, and a photograph with her, Marin leaves sunny California behind for the frigid temperatures of New York. There, she creates a new life for herself. But though she’s tried to separate herself from her old life entirely, her best friend Mabel won’t let her go without an explanation. After dozens of unread texts and unanswered calls, Mabel is coming to visit. Alone on her college campus during Winter break, Marin must face her friend, and the truth—and herself.
I won’t lie to you—I had tears streaming down my face for the last 100 pages of this novel. My heart was heavy the whole time, and I had a pit in my stomach, and my throat was tight. This novel caused such an emotional and physical reaction in me while reading. Just that alone makes this a wonderful, incredible story. Even better, though, is that every other aspect of the novel was just as great.
We Are Okay is told in first-person POV from Marin’s perspective. The novel flashes back and forth in time, from the present (December in New York) to the past summer in California. The novel is very introspective—though there’s plenty of dialogue, a large portion of the novel focuses on Marin’s thoughts and feelings and reflections. That’s where the magic happens. So, if you’re looking for a plot-driven novel with a lot going on, you won’t find it here. This is a character study, and a look into Marin’s life and relationships.
Marin experiences a trauma and flees, dropping everything and leaving everyone behind. She caves into herself, and just goes through the motions to get by. She’s incredibly avoidaint, going so far as to completely ignore any attempted communication with her best friend Mabel. Until Mabel shows up and basically demands and explanation. And Marin is forced to confront it all.
I related to Marin, and the story, on such a visceral level. I think that’s why this novel affected me so greatly. And maybe if you can’t relate you’ll still love it, or you’ll hate it, but for me, there was a personal connection and kind of a ‘right book, right moment’ thing going on. I don’t want to go into much of the story because it does kind of unravel for you in bits and pieces, and that’s part of what makes it so great. But I will say Marin feels so real, and Mabel just as much, and I love them both with my whole heart.
Nina LaCour is an amazing writer. I don’t know how she so perfectly encapsulates a teenage mind during/after trauma, but bravo. I love that LaCour creates realistic, relatable characters. Though the dialogue felt a little off in some spots, it was mostly spot-on. The pacing was perfect, and both past and present were interesting and integral to understanding the story. I liked that the novel wasn’t overly long, because though I wanted more, I know I didn’t need more—it was the right length, as it said exactly what needed said, and then it ended.
Another thing I really liked: the normalcy and subtlety of sexuality in the book. I like that characters didn’t pause everything and explicitly say “YES HELLO MY NAME IS ____ AND I AM GAY,” or something like that. I like that LGBT elements are present and play a role in the story without it being a “thing.” It felt so raw and real to me, and very relatable. I liked that aspect a lot.
I wish I could go into more detail, but I feel that would ruin the experience you would have if you read the book. Which you should do! Because this is truly such a good book. If you’re looking for a gut-wrenching story about friendship, family, and love, you really need this book. And a box of tissues. And maybe a hand to hold. Seriously, I’m still not over this story! I’m sensing a re-read in my future… We Are Okay is the story you didn’t know you needed, so this is me telling you YOU NEED IT.
–“I learn that I am a tiny piece of a miraculous world.”
–“We were nostalgic for a time that wasn’t yet over.”
–“It’s a dark place, not knowing. It’s difficult to surrender to. But I guess it’s where we live most of the time. I guess it”s where we all live, so maybe it doesn’t have to be so lonely. Maybe I can settle into it, cozy up to it, make a home inside uncertainty.”