All We Can Do Is Wait by Richard Lawson is an incredibly moving story about life, death, and the gray area in between. It is set in Boston, Massachusetts, with the collapse of the Tobin Bridge bringing hundreds of people to Massachusetts General Hospital to hear news about their loved ones. Among them are five teens: Scott, Alexa, Jason, Morgan, and Skylar.
Scott is waiting to hear about his girlfriend; Skylar worries for her older sister; Morgan hopes for news about her father; Jason and Alexa—siblings who are not close—try to comfort each other about the fate of their parents. As they all sit in the waiting room, their fear and agitation pushes the teens together, and they end up forming a surprisingly close bond, even though they have only known each other for a few hours.
The characters felt incredibly lifelike and relatable, and the author manages to make the reader empathize, if not sympathize, with even the most detestable characters. In a very short span of time, each character undergoes a change of heart, priorities, or of character. Jason and Alexa start to repair their fractured family; Scott tries to finally let go of the past; Skylar learns the importance of confidence and self-reliance; Morgan learns to accept change.
In addition to its captivating characters, the prose in All We Can Do Is Wait is well written and does an excellent job of conveying emotions. Jason says he “still felt rooted in place…because he didn’t know what was left of his life inside.” Skylar “felt herself standing very much in the middle of it. Not the center of it, not the focus of all this chaos, but caught in its tightest, fastest winds, circling around her, whipping past and jostling her like turbulence.”
On the surface, this book seems like many others: a saga highlighting the dystopian undertones in our society, simply following the trend of forcing character development with over-the-top disasters. But it is much more than that.
Waiting rooms, where the entirety of All We Can Do Is Wait is set, are just what they sound like: rooms meant for waiting, settling in as we twiddle our thumbs until we are called in, or we get The News, or really, whatever gets the story started. They are rooms for the "Inbetween." But in this book, waiting rooms are not the place where you wait for the story to start; they are a story in themselves, rooms full of soon-to-be widows or orphans, full of future history-book-worthy events. This novel explores the moments before death, the seconds before the grief sets in, the instances before someone’s world changes, and how knowing that you are in a room meant for exactly that can bring strangers together or extinguish the last remaining embers of a once-close relationship.
All We Can Do Is Wait by Richard Lawson. Razorbill, 2018. Buy the book here and help support Stone Soup in the process!