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The Tragedy Paper

Average Rating 4.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

This book...wow, I hardly know where to begin. First of all, I r

This book...wow, I hardly know where to begin. First of all, I rarely read books where the narrator is a young man. This isn't by choice - it just seems to happen that way. Being able to get into the minds of two young men, who both suffer the tragedy of a common event,...
This book...wow, I hardly know where to begin. First of all, I rarely read books where the narrator is a young man. This isn't by choice - it just seems to happen that way. Being able to get into the minds of two young men, who both suffer the tragedy of a common event, was enlightening.




Tim, one of the narrators of this story, is an albino who has recently undergone drastic change in his life. Meeting Vanessa and seemingly being included at his new school provides Tim with a feeling he has always longed for...belonging. And isn't this a feeling we all long for in our lives? I believe it's an element of human nature. And I believe that teenagers in particular suffer from this desire to belong, to be included, to fit in. For some, the desire is so strong they will do just about anything. Tim, who's need to fit in was probably much stronger seeing as he'd always been the outsider, did push his limits in order to achieve that goal...he indulged his tragic flaw as it were, to his own detriment.




Duncan, the second of the two narrators of our story, was witness to Tim's downfall and felt a certain degree of culpability. In fact, he seemed to be unable to move past his guilt. He spent the bulk of his senior year trying to come to terms with his perceived role in Tim's tragedy, trying not to make the same mistakes Tim has related to him, and to correlate Tim's story in a tangible way using his own Tragedy Paper.




I liked the use of the Tragedy Paper as the backdrop for this novel. Tragedy, both in the literal sense and in the literary sense, are combined to create a profound story. I also appreciated the use of Shakespearean names - Duncan and Tim Macbeth - both from Macbeth, one of Shakespeare's tragedies is telling. Duncan, just like King Duncan, is sensitive and insightful. Tim Macbeth is similar to Macbeth in his inability to truly trust along with his anxiety, both of which he suffers because he can't believe he'd ever be accepted because of being an albino. 




I did feel a tiny bit of a letdown once all was revealed. It seemed a bit melodramatic that Duncan would have had such a visceral reaction to the incident in light of his actions. However, the story is also very insightful, with Duncan learning much from Tim's revelations. Overall, this was a very engaging read.

posted by BookwormBrandee on January 8, 2013

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Rating: 3.5 The Low Down: Duncan has returned for his senior

Rating: 3.5




The Low Down: Duncan has returned for his senior year at The Irving School. A school with many traditions, one is where the previous year’s seniors “pass” their rooms on to the new seniors. They are left a “treasure” as well, which can be anything from b...
Rating: 3.5




The Low Down: Duncan has returned for his senior year at The Irving School. A school with many traditions, one is where the previous year’s seniors “pass” their rooms on to the new seniors. They are left a “treasure” as well, which can be anything from books to liquor to Yankees tickets. Much to his dismay, Duncan gets the room that no one wants - it’s small and has a tiny window. His bequest: a stack of CDs made by the room’s previous occupant, Tim Macbeth. Thinking they contain music, he starts to play the first one. It is Tim telling the story that Duncan doesn’t want to think about; the actual tragedy that took place at the end of the previous year. One that Duncan witnessed.




Tim transferred to Irving after Christmas break during his senior year. He didn’t have any friends at his previous school, really. Tim’s an albino, and he generally keeps his head down. He finds a place where he feels safe and he “tucks in,” as he says. But when his flight to New York City is cancelled because of snow, and he’s stuck staying overnight, he’s surprised that he agrees to allow a fellow passenger, a girl about his age, to stay in his room at the sold-out hotel. They go outside and build an igloo in the snow and have a snowball fight. They talk. They eat room service. He’s never enjoyed himself more. But when he finds out that this girl, Vanessa, attends Irving and she has a boyfriend there, he decides not to tell her that he’s headed there as well. The next day, as they travel on different flights, he texts his destination to her. She texts back one word: “Good.”




Best Thang ‘Bout It: A well-crafted story, I liked the Shakespeare references, this boy who knew he would always be judged by his appearance, and  the girl stuck in a relationship. The means of telling of the story was clever, one that allowed both Tim’s and Duncan’s tales to be told simultaneously. The story idea was fresh as well.




I’m Cranky Because: As present as all the elements were, I never felt that the story jelled for me. It wasn’t from a lack of a foundation that it didn’t crystallize either; there were threads throughout that were subtle yet visible that led to the end and came together nicely. We get to know Tim very well, but not really anyone else with the same amount of depth. I did not feel connected with or moved by most of them. I also thought the climax of the story was rushed which made it rather anti-climactic. There was so much time spent trying to discover what happened, then it finally happened, then book was over.




Should You?: When all is said and done, It is absolutely worth reading.




The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan was published on January 8, 2013 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.




Genre: Young Adult Fiction Contemporary
Ages: 12 and up
You Might Want to Know: Minor references to underage drinking.

posted by InkandPage on January 9, 2013

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  • Posted January 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This book...wow, I hardly know where to begin. First of all, I r

    This book...wow, I hardly know where to begin. First of all, I rarely read books where the narrator is a young man. This isn't by choice - it just seems to happen that way. Being able to get into the minds of two young men, who both suffer the tragedy of a common event, was enlightening.




    Tim, one of the narrators of this story, is an albino who has recently undergone drastic change in his life. Meeting Vanessa and seemingly being included at his new school provides Tim with a feeling he has always longed for...belonging. And isn't this a feeling we all long for in our lives? I believe it's an element of human nature. And I believe that teenagers in particular suffer from this desire to belong, to be included, to fit in. For some, the desire is so strong they will do just about anything. Tim, who's need to fit in was probably much stronger seeing as he'd always been the outsider, did push his limits in order to achieve that goal...he indulged his tragic flaw as it were, to his own detriment.




    Duncan, the second of the two narrators of our story, was witness to Tim's downfall and felt a certain degree of culpability. In fact, he seemed to be unable to move past his guilt. He spent the bulk of his senior year trying to come to terms with his perceived role in Tim's tragedy, trying not to make the same mistakes Tim has related to him, and to correlate Tim's story in a tangible way using his own Tragedy Paper.




    I liked the use of the Tragedy Paper as the backdrop for this novel. Tragedy, both in the literal sense and in the literary sense, are combined to create a profound story. I also appreciated the use of Shakespearean names - Duncan and Tim Macbeth - both from Macbeth, one of Shakespeare's tragedies is telling. Duncan, just like King Duncan, is sensitive and insightful. Tim Macbeth is similar to Macbeth in his inability to truly trust along with his anxiety, both of which he suffers because he can't believe he'd ever be accepted because of being an albino. 




    I did feel a tiny bit of a letdown once all was revealed. It seemed a bit melodramatic that Duncan would have had such a visceral reaction to the incident in light of his actions. However, the story is also very insightful, with Duncan learning much from Tim's revelations. Overall, this was a very engaging read.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Great Writing and Pacing

    First of all, I have to comment on how "clean" this book is. There's no swearing, no sex, no law breaking. Well, no major law breaking, anyway. It was refreshing to read a book that is free from all of that but still feels authentic and honest. I think too many times authors try to write teens with lots of bad language and actions because they are trying to seem more relevant to their audience. In The Tragedy Paper, the story will feel relevant because of great characters, great plot, and great writing.

    The book is written very well. The way the book was written - in scenes narrated and recorded by a main character - really reminded me of a movie. We open on one of the main characters, Duncan, arriving at The Irving School and looking to find which room he has been assigned to. In his room he finds a "treasure" left by the previous occupant. In this case, CD recordings left by Tim, an albino student involved in some kind of an incident last year. The book goes back and forth between Duncan in present day and Tim last year.

    The pacing is perfect. The book starts of a little slowly with Duncan arriving at school and then Tim meeting Vanessa, giving the feeling of anticipation and a little bit of apprehension. As the plot moves along we become more comfortable - just as Tim does - but at the same time a little more anxious because we know that we're being lead to some kind of big event or revelation by Duncan's reactions.

    I really loved the characters. I loved that they were "real" in that they were all flawed in some way. Tim views his entire life and everything he does through the slant of his albinism and has little confidence in himself. Vanessa is the popular pretty girl who has the popular boyfriend but she's the first person to treat Tim like a real person instead of some kind of a freak. Despite her attraction to him she strings him along, too afraid to give up her social status by being with Tim. Duncan is really innocent in everything that happens but has crippling guilt. Each character has good and bad traits.

    I loved the author's description's of Tim's feelings about Vanessa. She really captures those first feelings of infatuation where every glance and touch have meaning.

    ...she would make eye contact, or touch my arm gently. It was so subtle, and she was so good at it, like a fairy swooping in or a raindrop finding its way into a small space.... I never knew when it would be, but I started to crave it.

    I also loved the boarding school setting and all of the details that helped to round it out: the local ingredients used in the cafeteria, the treasure left by the residents of the rooms for next year's seniors to find, the hiding place in Duncan's room, the senior Game, Donut Day and so many other things. They all really made the setting real - and made me wish I went to that boarding school.

    I read this quickly - in about a day - because I was excited to see what was going to happen and how things would end up. However, I think this book would be a great re-read as there are a lot of scenes and ideas here that I would love to explore in more detail. There are a lot of layers to this book. Duncan's life, Tim's life, the relationship between Tim and Vanessa and her manipulative behavior, the idea of a tragedy paper and how the book itself can be seen as it's own tragedy paper. This book can be read as just a story about a bunch of kids at a boarding school - or it can go mu

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2013

    Interesting p.o.v. Such an amazing and unique book!

    This book made me so mad, but in a good way. I resented the characters' actions, but that made me realize how easily I connected to the story. Looking at the world from an outsider's point of view makes you view life from a new perspective.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2013

    Good book!

    I was looking for a book to read and i thought this sounded good. First i got the sample and i was hooked just from that so i bought the book. This is the first book i read by this author and i really liked it. I had a hard time putting it down as i wanted to see what happened. This is the first book in a while that i actually started reading and finished the whole book. This said it was for teens but i am in my late 40's and i really enjoyed reading this and it was a fast read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 11, 2013

    I enjoyed this book. It was well-written and nicely paced. I lik

    I enjoyed this book. It was well-written and nicely paced. I liked the two narrator approach. Tim and Duncan were engaging and interesting characters. 
    The boarding school details were spot-on. Nicely done. I look forward to the next book by Elizabeth Laban. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2013

    This book surprised me. I didn¿t really have any expectations f

    This book surprised me.

    I didn’t really have any expectations for it when I picked it up, and you know, sometimes that’s the best way to approach a book. Since I didn’t have crazy high expectations, or really even know what the book was going to be about, I was pleasantly surprised to be immediately drawn into the story, which is a sort of two-prong mystery that unfolds for the audience.

    I say “two-prong” because there are two timelines—one of them is being told to the main character, Duncan, who receives recordings of the story of Tim and Vanessa, two seniors from the previous year, narrated by Tim. What makes this interesting is that Duncan knows how the story ends, but the audience doesn’t. However, what Duncan doesn’t know is that the story Tim is telling will reveal nuances about his current life at Irving, inform his conceptions of the events of the past year, and , ultimately, that what he is listening to will impact his big senior project, the tragedy paper.

    I love how the story unfolds—it’s a slow build that culminates in a story that has both the characters and the audience trying to determine exactly what a tragedy is, and who the tragic characters really are.

    But! It’s not all tragic tragedy in this book—it’s set at a boarding school (and we all know how I can’t resist a good boarding school book) AND the boarding school is located not far from where I live, so there were several references both to the town I currently live in (YONKERS! As Tim points out, “It rhymes with bonkers.” That’s actually part of the reason I moved here. No lie.) and the towns surrounding me, which was a fun perk.

    Overall, this book is an intriguing, mysterious story of loneliness, heartbreak, and how you can learn from others’ mistakes. But more than that, it’s about the stress of being a senior, trying to balance school with fun and not thinking too-too much about the looming future and what college will bring.

    If you’re looking for a melancholy, slow burn of a story with a preppy, boarding school setting (with maps of the school as the endpapers!), then definitely check out The Tragedy Paper.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2013

    Interesting story

    The story was interesting and kept me wondering until the end about the conclusion to the events of the story. The book reads really fast and would say it is good book for teens, especially those that like to keep guessing what will happen next.

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  • Posted December 10, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Laban's debut novel will bowl you over with intrigue and sweet r

    Laban's debut novel will bowl you over with intrigue and sweet romance; not the supernatural, shape-shifting stuff which is seen in YA literature but a shy love that grows as the story develops.  But is love the point of this story?  I think not.  Tragedy, my friends, tragedy--it's the name of the game (and yes, there is a game).  Duncan is a senior at the Irving School; although he is assigned to what may appear as the least desirable dorm room, he finds secrets awaiting him.  The previous year's occupant, Tim, left Duncan a set of CDs on which Tim tells a story of events that happened the previous year.  As the story nears completion, Duncan realizes the part he played in last year's senior game, when a tragedy did take place.




    The story alternates between Tim telling the story of the previous year and Duncan living through his own senior year, when he admits to Daisy and to himself the depth of his feelings for her.  This is a parallel to Tim's senior year story, as he develops feelings for Vanessa.  She is the girlfriend of Patrick, a two-faced popular boy.  Danger and lots of suspense will keep the keeper tied to this story.  Well done!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2013

    I loved it

    The Tragedy Paper was really good. It was full of mystery and romance. It has a double P.O.V, one of which is first person the other of which is third. The characters are very well developed and the scenes are very vivid and easy to imagine.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2013

    Worth the time to read!

    This is a modern-day version of A Seperate Peace. well written, easily engaging

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  • Posted March 24, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan is one of those book that r

    The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan is one of those book that readers everywhere need to read and experience.  A story within a story that comes full circle in the end, and I loved every minute of it.

    I loved the unique way in which this story was told.   It’s told in the point of view of two characters, Duncan, student starting his senior year at Irving School, and Tim – a senior from the year before.  Where Duncan’s story is told in the present day, Tim’s story is told in a different way…via CD’s left in Duncan’s room.

    As per tradition at Irving School, the seniors of the previous year leave a “treasure” in the room of the new senior who now lives in.  The treasure can be anything from a bottle of booze, a live animal, and in Duncan’s case…CD’s.  And it’s the contents of what’s on the CD’s left by Tim for Duncan that the story and lives of Duncan and Tim intertwine.  A tragedy that has been haunting Duncan’s mind and soul since last year, and a confession of sorts that gives Duncan what he needs the most…the truth.

    I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I decided to start reading The Tragedy Paper.  I knew from the synopsis that it was going to be a story that would be unlike anything I’d read before, but it was also something more!  There were times where the story of Tim broke my heart and had me aching to reach through the pages and take him in my arms and comfort him.

    Tim was born as an Albino.  As such, he has gone through his life with great difficulty.  Not only does he have to go through his life knowing that he’s different, but it’s the reactions of those around him that affect him the most.  He has created his own coping mechanisms to assist him in making the reactions of people towards his appearance less harsh for himself.  But when he meets Vanessa, a fellow senior, at the airport on route to Irving School, it’s her carefree, kind and non-judgmental ways that has Tim falling for her hard.

    But isn’t there always some sort of road block that hinders most from getting what they want most?  In Tim’s case, it’s Vanessa’s boyfriend, Patrick.  I personally couldn’t stand this dude.  His flip flop attitude which I completely saw through.  And what annoyed me was how Vanessa couldn’t grow some, and just dump his sorry ass.  Especially after she notices his definite change in attitude after the death of his mother.  I understand the memories of how sweet he was before the death, but if the changes in his attitude are so apparent, and in your heart you know you don’t want to be with him any longer, why suffer through it?  For the sake of appearances?  Because you feel sorry that his mother died?  In the end, you’re only making it harder on yourself…And are quite possibly passing up the opportunity in having something real and concrete with someone else.

    So the event that connects both Tim and Duncan is a yearly senior “game”.  This is where the senior class plans a game or event behind the teachers’ backs.  And the senior game for Tim’s year ends up becoming an outing instead.  And although everything appears to go off without a hitch, it’s the tragic even that transpires during this outing that is being built up in The Tragedy Paper.  I personally thought it was going to be something … more!  I mean, don’t get me wrong, the events that transpired during that horrible event is pretty horrifying and I can’t even imagine what these characters are going through, but if I’m going to be perfectly honest … the building up found right from the beginning… the build up that had me glued to the pages from the get go … kind of deflated for me … But that’s not to say that the story still wasn’t epic, because it truly is!

    The writing style of author, Elizabeth LaBan, is one that I found very addicting.  I loved the flip flopping between the present and the past.  I loved how the thoughts and conclusions of Tim’s reflected on Duncan’s life and relationships.  I loved how the story revolved around the traditions of the school, and I loved how in the end, it all came full circle.

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  • Posted February 24, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Hard to put down.

    This one is in the same vein as Thirteen Reasons Why. It's a very well written story about the past impacting the present. The characters are wonderful and Tim's voice draws you in just as it draws Duncan in. You can't help but continue turning the pages to hear more of his story and ultimately find out what this tragedy was.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    Recommended- a good read

    Enjoyed the book. It got me involved in the story

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  • Posted January 29, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    booksbysteph says "Teen Read Good for Adults" Duncan M

    booksbysteph says "Teen Read Good for Adults" Duncan Meade seems like the only person who is not excited about returning to school. Senior students get the dorm rooms the previous seniors vacated. There is a tradition at Irving High School where the graduating senior leaves behind a gift for the new seniors. This could be anything from moldy pizza boxes to tickets to a sports game or even a dog.

    Duncan dreads finding out which room is his because after what happened last year, he knew he would get the worst room on the floor. He did indeed. Last year, the room belonged to Tim Macbeth who transferred in after winter break. He was an albino with eyes that hurt in the light and cause extreme headaches.

    The gift Tim left behind is a stack of cds with Tim's voice telling Duncan his story, which will become the meat of his tragedy paper. The tragedy paper is 30% of his grade in Senior English. "It is meant to be a culmination of [their] high school years - [their] reading comprehension, [their] writing skills, [their] method of analyzing material and then formulating and communicating [their] own thoughts." Tim starts his story by reminiscing on how he met Vanessa Sheller at an airport.

    I GIVE THIS BOOK: 4 out of 5 stars

    This author weaves a tale of tragedy that I could not put down. Through the whole book, you are wondering what Duncan did that was so wrong for him to get the horrible room. You get glimpses to know that it was bad, but you do not find out until the end. I liked how the story came full circle.

    The idea of having to write a tragedy paper, almost along the same lines as a thesis paper, seems like a very daunting task. I was glad there was no such thing until I read that the author had to write one; then I was thankful that my English teachers never thought of this idea.

    I do not have anything bad to say about this book. For being a teen read, I really enjoyed it. My emotions were invested in this book. As I said before, it was hard to put down.

    Until next time, live life one page at a time!

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    Posted June 9, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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