Book: How It Ends by Catherine Lo
Published June 2016 by HMH Books For Young Readers|304 pages
Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library
Genre: YA Contemporary
There are two sides to every story.
It’s friends-at-first-sight for Jessie and Annie, proving the old adage that opposites attract. Shy, anxious Jessie would give anything to have Annie’s beauty and confidence. And Annie thinks Jessie has the perfect life, with her close-knit family and killer grades. They’re BFFs…until suddenly they’re not.
Told through alternating points of view, How It Ends is a wildly fast but deeply moving read about a friendship in crisis. Set against a tumultuous sophomore year of bullying, boys and backstabbing, the novel shows what can happen when friends choose assumptions and fear over each other.
I went into How It Ends with high hopes. It seemed right up my alley, but I found the characters to be really frustrating, and unfortunately, that overshadowed the things I did like.
Let’s start with what I liked about the book. I think it highlights really well how fast friendships can form and how quickly things can go downhill. I do think it’s more about how friendships change than how friendships end, but still. It’s a really good look at friendships.
I also really liked the dual narration. Alternating points of view…they’re always hit or miss for me, but it worked really well in this book, because it shows how how both girls see what happened, and how differently two people go through something.
But because you see how both girls handle things, it also made the book really frustrating to read. There was a little bit of a Mean Girls vibe to some of the characters, and they all came across as stereotypical. It did feel true to life, but at the same time, I found myself getting really angry at most of the characters.
Jessie: I felt for Jessie, because I can relate to the anxiety she feels. But she did seem really clingy. As much as I understood how much it hurt that Annie hung out with Courtney and Larissa, and how Annie dismissed her feelings and anything she said about Courtney and Larissa, I also wonder if she would have reacted the same way if Annie had befriended girls who didn’t bully her. It just frustrated me that she had such a hard time with letting Annie hang out with other people, particularly these two girls, and it makes me wonder if maybe she tried to hang on too hard to someone who kept moving further and further away from her. I thought that Jessie really needed to learn some coping strategies. Medication is helpful, but we don’t see her manage it in any other way, and I wanted more of that.
Annie: I had a harder time relating to Annie, but I also felt for her. I can’t imagine losing her mom suddenly, and having to deal with a step-mom that doesn’t seem to care about her, a perfect step-sister, and everything that happened with Scott and Courtney. I hated that she told Courtney about Jessie’s anxiety, because it’s not for Annie to tell, and I feel like she over-stepped by sharing something really personal about someone else. I also hated that just completely dismissed everything Jessie said about Courtney and Larissa- until she found out about Jessie’s anxiety, and then, magically, how Jessie acted made sense to her. I know she thought she was helping, but she wasn’t, and she seemed to have changed her mind so fast. If she had taken the time to actually listen to Jessie…maybe things would have turned out differently.
Jessie’s Parents (but mostly Jessie’s mom): I absolutely hated how they handled her anxiety. Her dad seems like the kind of guy who thinks Jessie doesn’t have a problem, and that’s it’s all made up, and not a real problem, and that she’s just shy or whatever. And then there’s her mom, who is the complete opposite, and keeps Jessie’s anxiety medication under lock and key so that Jessie has to ask for her medication every single time she has a panic attack. She freaks out when Jessie goes to get more and I was glad that Jessie’s psychiatrist thought Jessie should have more access to her medication. Her mom definitely made Jessie feel more anxiety/panic than she already did, and the impression I got from the mom was that she over-reacts and freaks about every little thing. And her mom telling Annie about Jessie’s anxiety? Not cool. Again, sharing something like about someone else, especially when Jessie specifically said she didn’t want Annie to know. Her mom doesn’t get to decide who should know, and even though she was trying to help…it’s no wonder Jessie doesn’t seem to want to go to her mom.
Annie’s Step-Mom: I do wonder if she’s as bad as Annie makes her seem. She did seem to help Annie out, but given how much Annie dislikes her and says how horrible of a person she is, it makes me wonder about her motives, especially when she keeps bringing up Annie’s dad. It seems like she’s making an effort that Annie never seems to, but no one seems to acknowledge the sudden death of Annie’s mother, and it makes me wonder if maybe Annie feels like her mom is being replaced.
Let’s see…I don’t think I have any other thoughts about the book, so onto my rating!
3 stars. The characters frustrated me a lot, but I did like how we see a friendship change over the course of a year…which is why it’s getting 3 stars, instead of the 2 that I originally thought about giving it.