Confession: I was totally awkward in high school. I never felt comfortable in my own skin. I focused on track practice and schoolwork and most of all, friendships. As a teen girl, my friendships were everything to me. But since my best friend went to a different high school, I was kind of a loner.
And as someone who felt painfully uncool basically a hundred per cent of the time, I still remember the heady feeling when someone I thought was way out of my popularity league talked to me. So when I first read the blurb for HOW IT ENDS, I knew I could relate to Jessie completely-how when Annie, the cool new girl, first talks to her, she feels like Annie must be talking to someone else. I've been out of high school for years now, but that one line brought me right back.
Reading about the evolution of Jessie and Annie's friendship was so visceral and real. Catherine Lo intertwines their vastly different personalities so beautifully and shows how they complement each other and make each other stronger. I loved the use of dual POV here, because with a story like this-a story so intricate and brimming with so many emotions-getting inside both girls' heads was really important.
But while Jessie and Annie complement each other, they achieve the level of closeness that only comes with a lot of trust that the other person won't hurt you. Trust, which is precious and fragile, and can be chipped away at in bits or torn apart completely.
It was fascinating to me to see Jessie and Annie interpret people's words and actions in such different ways. There were times when Jessie didn't understand Annie and Annie didn't understand Jessie, and you just want to hug them and tell them to talk it out and make up, since that's what best friends do. But they're teenage girls, and it's not that easy. When the secret Jessie is keeping from Annie gets out and Annie lets Jessie in on what she's hiding, you just know those secrets aren't going to stay contained- I was literally holding my breath waiting for the fallout.
I saw parts of my teenage self in both Jessie and Annie. I was insecure and lonely, but I was also bold and stubborn. I was both a leader and a follower. I made good choices and bad ones. It's impossible to put labels on girls, because the second you slap us with one label, our instinct is to slither out of it and become someone else. I loved that Jessie and Annie had so many facets to their personalities. They felt like real people. They felt like parts of me from years ago. And a book that does that- a book that makes you see yourself in the characters, that makes you think what you would have done in their situations, or what you would have done differently- well, that's not just a book anymore. It's an experience. This one will hurt your heart and make you think long after the last page.