How It Ends by Catherine Lo
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on June 7th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Amazon ♡ Chapters ♡ TBD
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.
Honestly, I think you need to scroll right on down to Jamie’s review and look at that trigger warning, as guess who ignored it? Me.
I thought HOW IT ENDS was fantastic and so realistic…but I couldn’t finish it. At least not right now. Why you ask? Well, let’s back up.
The story is told from alternating POVs between Jessie, who has lived in this small town forever and was bullied in middle school by people who used to be her friends, and Annie, who has just moved to the town with her dad, his new wife and her daughter. Annie spots Jessie on the first day of school, and they become instant friends. Insta-friendship, if you will, but I have had the exact same experiences before. I’ve also experienced the whole friends breaking up between elementary and middle school thing, where I was the friend left behind by girls who became “popular”. So already there are a lot of realistic elements.
Jessie and Annie, as characters, were also very well-written, and they felt like real people insomuch as I could see a lot of myself in them. At first, this was evenly split, but it quickly became clear that I was Jessie. You see, Jessie has anxiety, and Catherine does not hold back on fleshing out what that actually feels like. The thoughts and self-doubts that Jessie has, like thinking Annie will figure out what a loser she is and leave her, are exactly how I feel a lot of the time.
Then came Jessie’s panic attack under the bleachers, and BAM. That there was the sound of my Kindle being thrown down on the floor because I was about to have one myself.
The past several weeks have been particularly tough for me, with a lot of stress and some of the biggest waves of depression and anxiety I’ve ever experienced, and that’s why I couldn’t finish HOW IT ENDS right now. It was too realistic, and I’ve just had to put it down twenty minutes ago because I was starting to feel shaky. SO PAY ATTENTION TO THE TRIGGER WARNING FOR ANXIETY GUYS.
When I’m in a more stable position, i.e. not fresh out of the end of a long-term relationship and in the middle of midterms, I’m going to go back to this one. I promise. But right now, I’m going to try and breathe.
Trigger Warning in this book for anxiety attacks, teenage sex, and general bad language
I really enjoyed HOW IT ENDS because of the realistic portrayal of friendships and the feeling that you have as a teen that everything is urgent, fragile, and transitionary. I loved the idea of Annie and Jessie’s relationship burning so brightly at the beginning and fizzling out after a few months. I also liked that even though there were your typical “mean” girls, they weren’t depicted as mean because they were sluts or who they were dating — it was because they were bullies. I really liked that idea (even though I did not like them as bullies or the things they bullied people about).
I really liked both Annie and Jessie as people and I thought they were really realistic. They were both flawed and imperfect — as only 15 year old girls can be — and I liked going through the highs and lows with them. I liked seeing how each of them viewed the same situation because it put into perspective how different people see different things. I also liked that some things were still skewed because we didn’t see everyone’s perspectives possible (and I think seeing Courtney’s point of view would have been interesting).
I thought that the anxiety that Jessie has was really realistic and I would caution anyone who suffers from anxiety to read this knowing that panic attacks are fully described. The building and buzzing that Jessie experiences is also something I experience before an anxiety attack so I liked that inclusion. I thought how she even tried to cope with the anxiety, taking extra pills, etc. was realistic as well because a lot of people dealing with mental illnesses behave this way so that they don’t have to experience the bad moods. I think it was a good portrayal of anxiety in teens.
I wasn’t a fan of a couple things though, mostly that I had no idea how long this was taking or what the time period was. There were a few mentions of time, Winter Formals and Christmas, but I was really confused because there wasn’t a mention of snow? It is set in a small town in Southern Ontario and we get a lot of snow in the winter time, but these characters barely seemed to be wearing coats??? I wear coats a lot from like October onward. And there were a couple other things that I was like “hm that’s not quite right” so I didn’t fully feel myself in the setting. Which probably is because I lived in a small town in Southern Ontario and I kept comparing it to my town rather than just experiencing it.
The other thing I was meh about was Jessie’s old friends that are introduced throughout don’t really have personalities or characteristics. They felt really one dimensional, just there to show who Jessie was and what she could be as well. I think there was so much potential for them to be explored, especially Charlie and Jody, and that just didn’t happen. It was a little disappointing because of how fleshed out everyone else was.
I also am mixed about Annie’s conflict in this one. I felt like it was a View Spoiler »PSA for safe sex and it just didn’t quite work for me « Hide Spoiler, but I thought it fit in with the story. I liked that this View Spoiler »brought Jessie more out of her shell and she stood up for Annie « Hide Spoiler. But, yeah: conflicted.
This was a really good book, and it’s great to see accurate portrayals of teenage life with all its highs and lows, but take care if you have anxiety.