Young Widows Club by Alexandra Coutts explores a subject that fascinates most of us: young people getting married very early on in life, and the reality of what happens if you become a widow at such a young age.
For seventeen-year-old Tam, running off to marry her musician boyfriend is the ideal escape from her claustrophobic high-school life on the island, and the ultimate rebellion against her father and stepmother. But when Tam becomes a widow just weeks later, the shell-shocked teen is forced to find her way forward by going back to the life she thought she’d moved beyond—even as her struggle to deal with her grief is forcing her to reinvent herself and reach out to others in ways she never imagined.
What stood out to me most was the truth and honesty throughout the story. Coutts doesn’t skim over the difficult subjects that Tam is dealing with but truly embraces and acknowledges the realities of her situation. The entire book was very emotional and I definitely got teary multiple times as I was reading. Not only is Tam dealing with the grief of losing Noah, she’s also learning to re-adjust to what it’s like to really be a teenager: going to school, having friends, spending time with family, and not always making the best decisions. It’s even harder because Tam’s mom was killed when she was young and she’s reminded over and over again of that loss too.
Tam’s entire story fascinated me. None of the decisions she made are ones that I would make personally but at the same time, it’s a good reminder that some things are not for everyone and that we’re not all on the same life paths. I really liked that Tam ends up back in school and while struggling initially, she finds inspiration again. There’s a lot of positive character growth throughout the book and I was glad to see where she ended up, all things considered. Tam feels very authentic as a true teenager and I appreciated how realistic her story was.
The exploration of relationships, both through Tam’s friends and family and the Young Widows Club, is very well done. I especially liked her friendships with Lula and Liza. Lula is definitely one of the biggest spurs for Tam’s growth and I liked how she stayed true to herself and her beliefs the whole time. Liza is an almost motherly figure but the friendship that forms during the Young Widows Club is really touching. I have mixed feelings abut Colin and his presence in Tam’s life; on some level, I understand their desire to begin to move on from their losses but the age difference creeped me out a little and it just felt too soon for Tam to really be ready for a relationship.
One other thing I loved was the large presence music had throughout the story. I don’t want to give too much away but it adds depth and a dose of reality for Tam when she needs it most.
Young Widows Club is a unique YA novel that explores the process of grief and growth in a rare situation. It’s emotional, intriguing, and inspiring and a great eye-opening contemporary read.