“The trouble with denial is that when the truth comes, you aren’t ready.”
Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.
“If our past selves got a glimpse of us now, what would they make of us?”
This book came so unexpectedly into my life, but I’m eternally grateful that it did so. There’s simply so much to love about We Are Okay that I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed writing this, but thankfully lists exist for me to break it down point by point:
- We have a switching narrative between the past and future, which adds tremendously to the ongoing intrigue. Usually with books that have a similar structure, I struggle connecting with either the past or the present but that was not the case with We Are Okay. Far from it, actually. I kept switching my love for the chapters set in the past and those set in the present.
- The author gets so many things right. From leaving your home and friends and childhood behind, to tackling loneliness, grief, friendship, f/f love, bisexuality, heartbreak, and talking about books and paintings, positive adult figures, and so much more. But I especially want to address how Marin’s broken longing felt so palpable. I could virtually feel her grief coming off the page, which is by no means an easy feat to achieve in writing.
- Speaking of, LaCour’s words blew me off the page. I just loved how certain scenes drew a perfectly fitting picture in my mind.
“She leans over our table and turns the sign in the window so that it says CLOSED on the outside. But on our side, perfectly positioned between Mabel’s place and mine, it says OPEN. If this were a short story, it would mean something.”
I had to laugh at how witty that passage was.
And then hiding my smile at this gentle and still scene following at nighttime:
“So I turn over and find Mabel closer to me than I’d realized. I wait a minute there to see if she’ll move away, but she doesn’t. I wrap my arm around her waist, and she relaxes into me. My head nestles in the curve behind her neck; my knees pull up to fit the space behind hers.
She might be asleep. I’ll only stay here for a couple of minutes. Only until I thaw completely. Until it’s enough to remind me what it feels like to be close to another person, enough to last me for another span of months. I breathe her in. Tell myself I need to turn away.
Soon. But not yet.
“Don’t disappear again,” she says. “Okay?”
Her hair is soft against my face.
My heart. These two have my heart.
- The summer chapters are set in San Francisco, mainly at the beach, which is one of my all-time favorite locations.
“Tourists descended onto our beach, sat in our usual places, so we borrowed Ana’s car and crossed the Golden Gate to find a tiny piece of ocean to have for ourselves. We ate fish-and-chips in a dark pub that belonged in a different country, and we collected beach glass instead of shells, and we kissed in the redwoods, we kissed in the water, we kissed in movie theaters all over the city during matinees and late-night showings. We kissed in bookstores and record stores and dressing rooms. We kissed outside of the Lexington because we were too young to get in. We looked inside its doors at all the women there with short hair and long hair, lipstick and tattoos, tight dresses and tight jeans, button-ups and camisoles, and we pictured ourselves among them.”
- And since Marin’s from San Francisco but moved to NYC for college, the winter chapters set for the perfectly gloomy and quiet atmosphere. And as this books mentions, “It was quiet, maybe, but it wasn’t simple.”
- I loved the attention paid to details. You could tell how much the story meant to the author just by little things such as the names of the girls:
“Just different enough,” I said.
Since we’d met, we had a thing for our names’ symmetry. An M followed by a vowel, then a consonant, then a vowel, then a consonant. We thought it was important. We thought it must have meant something. Like a similar feeling must have passed through our mothers as they named us. Like destiny was at work already. We may have been in different countries, but it was only a matter of time before we would collide into each other.”
- And now that I’ve successfully circled back to my favorites, I have to talk about how stunningly earnest their relationship felt. We get to see them through all the stages: from strangers to friends to lovers to something more to something undefinable and then… And then going back and forth until they find their footing. It was everything I wanted and more. They’re so good for one another.
- Like I wrote in my review for Queens of Geek, I live for books that write about girls. Girls supporting girls. Girls loving girls. Girls, girls, girls!!! And so this book fulfilled my heart while reading about Marin’s remarkable roommate and compassionate new boss and noteworthy best friend.
“I look at her. I wish her everything good. A friendly cab driver and short lines through security. A flight with no turbulence and an empty seat next to her. A beautiful Christmas. I wish her more happiness than can fit in a person. I wish her the kind of happiness that spills over.”
This is still one of the kindest things I’ve ever read. My eyes are burning again.
- Side note: the amount of times my eyes teared up while reading was low-key alarming. But it was like I couldn’t help it, especially towards the end. Like Marin said, “I was crying, trying not to cry.” We Are Okay is tragic and hopeful and morose and every adjective in the world that will help encompass the beauty of this story.
- And last but not least, I delighted in the fact that the families played such a big part in this book. Specifically centering on Mabel’s Mexican-American family and how fervently they welcomed Marin with open arms. Ana and Javier are two of the kindest souls and made my heart swell more than once with their words and actions.
All in all: I’m beyond grateful that I picked this up on a whim because I don’t think I’ll find anything like it soon. But I know that I’ll look forward to any of Nina LaCour’s future works to come out.
P.S. This song felt really fitting for the mood this story is conveying (since it also mentions summertime and being seventeen and drinking whiskey). I listened to it on repeat until, to paraphrase this book, its sound turned to nothing.