Questions loom from the first page of The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LeBan. From the early part of the book, I had a list. What has Duncan done that nags his conscience and threatens his acceptance as he returns to Irving for his senior year of high school? Can an assigned senior project of a tragedy paper for one class possibly hold this much importance in students’ lives? What is the significance of his tiny room assignment in the corner of the dorm? Will the traditional secret Senior Game ruin the lives of its participants? As a writer, I questioned whether she could maintain a story with what amounts to two protagonists as Tim, who has albinism and appears in his own story only on CDs, becomes at least as important to the novel as Duncan. As a reader, I added another. Could she maintain this interest and intensity to the end of the book?
The worry that Duncan’s offense was too slight for this much concern and the equal worry that it was too monstrous for healing nags away throughout the book. Her simple definition of a tragedy paper is order to chaos to order with a hefty magnitude of choices. By the end of the book, I realized her novel was itself a tragedy paper, which satisfied my reader and writer questions. Tim and Duncan carry the story together like partners in a doubles tennis match. High interest and intensity continue to the end of the book, leaving only enough respite here and there to allow the reader to breathe.
In her end notes, the Elizabeth LeBan says she had this very assignment and took it as the basis for her novel, proving that the old writer cliché, “Write what you know,” works. My review is from an advance reader copy. This debut novel will be released January 8, 2013. I recommend the reading if you have the stamina to be caught up in the magnitude of chaos and choices. I hope Elizabeth LeBan has more to come.