In general, I would actually say that The Tragedy Paper is very derivative of other works of fiction, sometimes to the point of blatant copy-catting. For instance, the first and last lines of The Outsiders are very iconic, and Elizabeth LaBan lifted them wholesale, and the end result was that I closed the book with a bad taste in my mouth, since I consider what she did to be one step away from plagiarism. I hope that, should this author continue to write books, she will be less obvious in where she gets her ideas and inspiration from, as it was very off-putting for me.
Okay, so I don’t feel like this book is very original, and I was a bit annoyed. I do, however, think The Tragedy Paper is a good book. It was simple and quick to read, and I thought the characters were all likable and wanted to root for them. I’ve also always been a fan of stories about rich white kids at boarding school doing preppy things—I don’t know what that says about me as a person, but there you have it.
As with Thirteen Reasons Why, LaBan’s narrative follows two timelines. There is the book’s narrator, in this case Duncan, and then there’s another character who tells a story via voice recording, in this case Tim, an albino who graduated from the Irving School the previous year. There is obviously a connection between Duncan’s life and Tim’s, but it isn’t revealed until the very end.
This story wasn’t particularly complex, and The Tragedy Paper is high on character interaction and low on pretty much everything else. That sort of novel really tends to work for me, so I found the entire reading experience to be breezy and engaging. I have seen some reviewer’s complain that this is boring, so potential readers should keep that in mind. I wouldn’t say, however, that this was a particularly heavy or ultra-serious read. Yes, important issues were raised, but not in a way that was dark or depressing.
I found The Tragedy Paper to be a worthwhile debut novel from an author who I think shows a lot of promise. Though I’ve read books like this before many times, and was able to see how LaBan patched together others’ ideas to create this book, I still enjoyed the text altogether.