As part of our ongoing collaboration with the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, our writers have accepted the challenge of reading and reviewing pre-publication review copies of highly anticipated young adult literature. The reviews are posted here for our readers, but also will be sent to the Book House where they will hopefully be used to inform customers about the books they may want to purchase.We will try to publish one review a week for the spring.
The reviews contain spoilers, so be forewarned!
All We Can Do is Wait
by Richard Lawson
Published February 2018
288 pages, Razorbill
All We Can Do Is Wait, by Richard Lawson, is told through the eyes of five teenagers who wait to hear the fates of their loved ones. Lawson focuses on the effect the collapse of the Tobin Bridge had on these individuals, rather than the event itself. We learn about their life stories even though the book only covers about a few hours in time. Their lives will never be the same after this day, but they will learn valuable lessons and come to terms with their pasts.
After the Tobin bridge collapsed, the Boston General Hospital was packed with people all trying to hear the latest news concerning their family and friends who were in the accident. When each character is presented, the author gives us very little information about them, making the reader puzzle together their life stories. Each chapter, Lawson gives us new information about a character’s past and present situation, so by the end of the novel, we feel familiar with them.
Two of the characters, Jason and Alexa, are siblings who have a rocky relationship. The previous summer they lost Kyle, a valuable friend, maybe something even more than a friend, and since Kyle’s death, have grown apart. However, during this scary time, when they are unsure of their parents fate, they do their best to overcome their differences and open up to one another.
Skyler is in the hospital waiting to hear about her older sister Kate, who is everything to her. Skyler has struggled with an abusive boyfriend in the past. She lives with her grandparents, who are currently in Cambodia, but looks to Kate for advice and admires Kate’s ability to solve problems. She feels like she owes Kate for all she has done for her. She is the first to find out information on her sister’s wellbeing. Once she does, she thinks “of the others in the waiting room. Alexa and her brother, Scott and Morgan. She had promised them that she’d come back. That she’d wouldn’t go home until they all knew for sure about their loved ones. Skyler barely knew them, these scared and sad kids, but she didn’t want to go home, to be alone, just yet anyway” (201). She grows very close to the other four characters in the few hours she is with them, and feels responsible to stay with them and provide whatever help she can.
Scott waits on his girlfriend Aimee. Scott loves her, but recently the two have had problems. Scott can only hope that she will be okay and that he can make it up to her when all of this is over.
We are introduced to Morgan late in the novel. She is the only character who is in the hospital for a loved one that wasn’t in the accident. Even though she has already learned the fate of her father, she sticks around the hospital to support four kids she just met.
Richard Lawson used many literary techniques to write the novel. He writes in a first person point of view, changing the narrator every chapter. This is a useful technique, because it allows the reader to better understand what each character is thinking and see the events from his/her perspective. By doing this, Lawson can use flashback to give a history of each character. Thus making it easier for the reader to understand why a character is feeling the way they are.
A major theme of this book is coming together after disaster strikes. These teenagers come into Boston General Hospital as strangers. All of them are alone except for Jason and Alexa who only have each other. They find one another, however, and do their best to provide comfort and support. Each have very different lives, filled with unique problems. Yet, they find ways to connect and do their best to take each other’s mind off the current situation. Alexa and Scott meet for the first time and in a depressing place, but find ways to make each other laugh. Alexa thinks, “there was enough else to talk about. Really anything would do” (73). While somewhat of a sad story, we can believe that even during the worst times, there will always be someone there for you.
Regret and guilt are also ideas found throughout the book. Many of the characters think that the accidents were their fault and wish that they had done things differently. What’s done is done. Weighing on things that we have no control over will only make things worse. When Kyle dies, Jason shuts down after this, believing Kyle would still be alive had Jason just picked up when he called. Kyle was a very important person in both Jason and Alexa’s lives. Jason never told Alexa about his secret with Kyle or what happened the night he died. It is important to focus on the present and make the most of it. The time for making amends is now. Jason’s secret comes out after a little help from Morgan. His sister, unhappy with Jason, reminds him that he could just have easily been in the seat next to Kyle when he crashed his car. Although Alexa can see that Kyle’s accident wasn’t Jason’s fault, she still doesn’t want to tell Jason the reason that her parents were on the bridge was because she wanted to have a school meeting with them. Eventually she does, and after telling their secrets, the siblings can finally have trust in and rely on one another.
You can tell this story was important to the author and that he grew up in Boston because he was very descriptive and included many details about the city, like names of streets and buildings. At the very end of the book Lawson writes, “When the Marathon bombing happened, Morgan had watched Boston become something she’d never seen, not even when the Red Sox won the world Series: It was communal, bonded, forged together. She thought the whole ‘Boston Strong’ thing was corny, but there was something true about it, too. She felt a deep affection for the city just then, even though there was maybe nothing left in it for her”(271). Morgan’s thoughts reflect Lawson’s in this quote. This idea of “Boston Strong” is most likely something the author experienced first hand and still believes in. Because of this, the theme of this book is uniting after tragedy, with the setting in a waiting room of a Boston hospital. We are strongest when we are together and can rely on our neighbors to help us through tough times. Alexa has had experience with these types of times. She says to Scott, “The longer we keep living, the more time passes. I think it has to get easier at some point. For now, I guess all we can do is wait” (259). It may not always be easy, but eventually, things will improve and we will learn to move on, while still holding on to the memory.
Overall, I liked this book and would recommend others to buy it when it comes out in February. I think most readers will be able to relate to at least one of the characters. It is somewhat of a depressing and sad story, but I felt hopeful in the end. Richard Lawson did a good job of keeping the reader entertained, constantly throwing unexpected twists into the plot. It was an emotional journey, but it was one that will make readers think and not leave them disappointed. I would suggest this book to readers over the age of fourteen who are looking for a good, deep and meaningful book.