AUTHOR: Nina LaCour
PUBLISHER: Dutton Books for Young Readers
RELEASE DATE: October 20, 2009
GENRE: Contemporary Young Adult Fiction
PAGE COUNT: 230
Add on Goodreads
Nina LaCour has become one of my favourite authors because I feel like I can count on her to deliver great character development and themes. I love her way of unravelling themes cyclically, returning again and again to whimsical and nostalgic images that grow to carry strong meaning for the characters.
At the heart of Hold Still is loss and loneliness. When the story begins, Caitlin is feeling lost at sea after her best friend, Ingrid, commits suicide. The first half of the book is heavy with Caitlin’s grief and her seemingly futile search for meaning and belonging.
The plot is broken into four parts, one for each season. The changing seasons make a poignant backdrop for the changes in Caitlin’s life. Her school photography assignment that forces her to find a new perspective on Ingrid’s life, and her project to build a treehouse in her backyard both spark Caitlin’s character arc. I also love the motif of the abandoned cinema in her neighbourhood, which takes on so much more meaning as the story progresses. Art and the vulnerability to openly express emotion, whether that be in a photograph or a friendship, are key themes.
Since Hold Still deals with suicide and self-harm, it is potentially triggering for some readers. If you’re not sure, keep in mind that it does include explicit details, but not in an overly graphic way (and not in a romanticised or dramatised way). The mood of the book is melancholy with gentle glimpses of hope that emphasise what comes after this trauma. I think this would be a great read for teens who do not experience mental illness, or who knows someone who does, because Caitlin’s point of view as an outsider to Ingrid’s pain means she has to learn to understand her friend’s experience. Basically, this is not Ingrid’s story, but rather the story of someone who does not have a first hand understanding of mental illness.
This is a sad book that may leave your heart aching, but it’s also hopeful and beautiful with its motifs of regrowth, reimagining, and remembering.
If you like Hold Still, try: