By: Quinn Collins

How do you think Belzhar helped the students grow?

When the students wrote in their red leather journals, they experienced a trance that they called Belzhar. Belzhar lead the students to a happy memory where they were free to roam around. For Jam, her Belzhar was being with Reeve and reliving old memories. For the other students it was things like being able to walk and run without the use of their wheelchair, and spending time with their brother who had been kidnapped years before. Each student had a different Belzhar but they all seemed to be affected in the same way. It was an escape from their lives and their struggles. So I think that made it easier to see how each student grew. At the end of the journal they relived their traumatic event and they learned to accept what had happened to them. They learned that although you can’t change the past, you can live a different future. A future without constant guilt and pain about what happened to them. And it was Belzhar that helped them understand this. I think without it, they would all spend a lot more of their time stuck in the past.

Why do you think the author mislead readers in the beginning of the book?

As I finished the book Belzhar, I sat thinking about this for a while and I was sort of angry at first. I felt like I was lied to and I was stupid for not discovering the truth sooner. But the more I thought about it the more I understood and was happy it unfolded this way. When Jam was introduced as a teenage girl severely distraught from the death of the love of her life (Reeve), it was less confusing. It was extremely sad, but it's something that I think everyone can related to. Heartbreak and loss are something that everyone goes through in their life. If Jam would have been introduced as a crazy, obsessive, liar it would have been very hard to understand Jam and where she was coming from. Instead when the author revealed that Reeve and Jam's relationship was just a story Jam had made up in her head I felt even worse for her. She had a much more serious problem that I couldn't even recognize. I feel like Meg Wolitzer did it this way for shock factor, and also to try and understand Jam before harshly judging her as a psychotic obsessive girl.

What is the relationship between Griffin and Jam?

When Griffin and Jam met in the boarding school for "intelligent but emotionally fragile young adults" I didn't think much would come of their relationship. They didn't have a lot of chemistry even during the end of the book when they started dating. At least I didn't see it. But I think that Griffin was just a distraction. A distraction of her pretend dead boyfriend and a distraction from all the sadness she was going through. Which was good for her I think. And even when Jam revealed to him that Reeve didn't die and their relationship wasn't real, he accepted it. He wasn't angry, he even said he was happy that he didn't die. Now they could go about their relationship with a clean slate. I think even though they were both good for each other, once they leave The Wooden Barn boarding school I don't think their relationship will continue.

What was the point of Jam eating the jam that she got from Reeve at the end of the novel?

I think this part showed a huge turning point in Jam. She had kept that jar of jam ever since she got it from Reeve and she said she was never going to open it. But when she casually offers to eat it with crackers alongside her roommate, it showed a lot about her life and where it was headed. I think it was her way of saying, Reeve is in the past. I'm done with this part of my life, and I am moving forward. It was a good ending point in the novel and made me feel confident that Jam could continue in her life without the pain Reeve gave her.

Why do you think the author had the class read Sylvia Plath?

I really liked this detail in the book. The "special topics" class focused on Sylvia Plath and her poems and books, and every once in a while a quote would be brought up. A quote that would correlate with jam and her life. It would spark a little bit of truth that maybe she needed to hear to help her get over Reeve. There was one specific one that really woke her up. It was:

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;

I lift my lids and all is born again.

(I think I made you up inside my head.)

This passage made Jam freeze in her seat. She responded with, "Sylvia Plath understands everything about love. What it does to you. What it did to me. She knows me." At first this reference didn't mean much to me. I remember thinking about it and feeling bad for her. But after realizing the truth about their relationship, I though right back to this passage. It woke her up a little and made her realize someone else knew what she was feeling. I think it probably made her feel more open about the truth. Because only a little while after, she opened up about what really happened with Reeve.

Do you think this story is believable? Do you feel like everyone has their own Belzhar?

I definitely don't think this is very believable. It was even a little hard for me to get into this book because of how unfeasible it is for this to happen. At least at the level they were speaking about in the book. But I feel like everyone does have their own little version of Belzhar, though it's probably not as intense as in the book. Your own little world when reading or writing. A place that's unlike your reality and somewhere you can escape and fantasize about life the way you think it should be.

What do you think about Jem's future? Do you think a situation like this is likely to happen again?

I think that Jem has some serious issues. I think it would have been a smarter move to put her in a hospital for a little while. I think she should have been diagnosed with a mental disorder, and maybe she did! Although I am not a doctor, I think making a fake relationship in your head, killing the person in your head, and being so distraught and grief-stricken that you are unable to get out of bed, is not normal. I am glad going to the boarding school worked for her, but I feel like if she doesn't get serious help, that later in life, this sort of thing might happen again. The definition of psychosis is a mental disorder characterized by a disconnection from reality. And I don't know about you but that sounds an awful like what Jem is going through...