Unplug and Read: The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan

Unplugging is hard for me. The only time I unplug (aside from being asleep) for an entire day is when my family goes camping, and even then we still use our iPad to help us map the stars or figure out the best way to make chili on an open flame. I’m not obnoxious (I don’t think, anyway) about it. I don’t take out my iPhone at the movies or a play or at a restaurant unless I’m taking photos of my kids or the food, which doesn’t count. But I do need to step away from my devices more, and what better inspiration than Screen-Free Week, April 29-May 5. As mothers who believe in stepping away from the screen, Diana and I fully support the initiative to turn off the TV, unplug the videogames/tablets/phones and get back to the basics for a week. –Sandie


Unplug and Read

Of course we believe that there’s nothing better than reading a good book when unplugging yourself from all the distractions that screen time plays in our lives. One book we’d like to suggest for your unplugged week is “The Tragedy Paper” by Elizabeth LaBan. LaBan has given us a compelling story that is well worth the read at any time, but especially when looking for ways to fill time usually filled with texting, chatting, or posting on social-media sites. –Diana

The Tragedy Paper

Perfect for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why and Looking for Alaska, Jennifer Weiner, #1 New York Times bestselling author, calls Elizabeth LaBan’s The Tragedy Paper “a beguiling and beautifully written tale of first love and heartbreak.”

It follows the story of Tim Macbeth, a seventeen-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is “Enter here to be and find a friend.” A friend is the last thing Tim expects or wants—he just hopes to get through his senior year unnoticed. Yet, despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “It” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim’s surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, but she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone ever finds out. Tim and Vanessa begin a clandestine romance, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.

Jumping between viewpoints of the love-struck Tim and Duncan, a current senior about to uncover the truth of Tim and Vanessa, The Tragedy Paper is a compelling tale of forbidden love and the lengths people will go to keep their secrets.

Elizabeth LaBan unfolds a tale that has many layers. On the surface it’s about Tim, an albino teen who has graduated and left behind a series of CDs explaining his senior year at Irving to the next senior to occupy his dorm room, Duncan. As we weave between Duncan’s and Tim’s viewpoints, they become connected through the Tragedy Paper (senior thesis) that they have to write for Mr. Simon, the prep school’s popular but demanding English teacher. Duncan discovers that while Tim missed out on the chance for love and friendship, he doesn’t want to miss his opportunity at a relationship. The more Duncan listens, the more that Tim’s life consumes him. The Tragedy-with-a-capital T of Tim’s one semester at Irving begins to greatly affect Duncan’s life.

We were truly intrigued by this book and spent much time discussing Tim, Duncan, and the Tragedy Paper. It’s obvious LaBan cherished her own boarding school experience, because her description of life at Irving is thorough and authentic (and made us envious of all the organic gourmet meals!). She captures the pathos of being lonely at such a storied institution but also the thrill of experiencing the kind of education an elite few are privileged enough to receive. Irving and its traditions are as much a character as our tragic heroes Tim and Duncan.

We feel sure that you will find LaBan’s coming-of-age tale as thought-provoking and fascinating as we did.

So, unplug everything, kick back and spend some time with “The Tragedy Paper,” or that pile of books you’ve been neglecting. You’ll be glad you took the time to dig into a good book. And the best part is that thanks to technology, all those shows and videos and games will be just an on button away, so don’t worry — you’re not missing out on anything!

Want to Unplug & Read along with us? Then enter our giveaway for a copy of “The Tragedy Paper” below.

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  1. Oooh now that I read about it, this book actually sounds pretty good. Based on what you know of my tastes, do you think I’d enjoy it? I don’t know why but I’ve been really hesitant about it so far, but after reading your synopsis/review, I’m definitely a more intrigued!
    I’m really looking forward to Screen Free Week! Although most days are screen free now since I read more than I watch TV haha. Lots of fun! :)

  2. End of April books, hopefully I’ll be reading Sweet Peril and The Elite.

  3. I have so many books to read during Screen Free Week, including Beautiful Creatures, Eleanor and Park and of course The Tragedy Paper.

  4. I’ve been wanting to read this book ever since 1)I saw the cover- which is gorgeous 2) The boarding school setting. After reading your review, I’m definitely interested in read this. It feels like a book that requires my undivided attention and I like books like that :).

  5. weheartya says:

    We’ve been curious about this one, and we’re glad to hear it was a good read!

    • weheartya says:

      Oh, and HECK YES to unplugging! The four of us really don’t do it often enough… but when we do, it’s so refreshing!


  1. […] thrilled to share a guest Post by Elizabeth LaBan, author of “The Tragedy Paper,” which we read and loved earlier this […]

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