How it Ends may not have the most original premise – two best friends torn asunder by the pressures and politics of high school drama – but what it lacks in originality it makes up for in wit, wisdom, and relatability.
THE BROKEN FRIENDSHIP TROPE. I have to admit, I was blown away by how easy it was to get immersed in Jessie and Annie’s friendship drama. It felt so real – like I was back in high school again. I think we’ve all had a friend seemingly “turn” on us out of nowhere, and the accompanying bitterness and heartache isn’t something you ever really forget. That’s one of the strongest points of How It Ends. It sums those feelings up perfectly. And, because of the dual narratives you really get to experience how both girls see things. That’s a luxury we don’t always get in real life, so I enjoyed being able to play devil’s advocate as I bounced back and forth between the POVs. They both have reasons to feel hurt/betrayed/abandoned. Both have valid points and things they’re being petty about. It’s so easy in life to feel that we’re the victim and that someone else is the villain, but in truth we’re all the heroes of our own stories. This is a great portrayal of that.
Jessie. Practically the first thing you learn about Jessie is that she was bullied in middle school, and has sense developed extreme social anxiety because of it. This affects all other aspects of her life – it bleeds into her relationships at school, her self-esteem, her ability to concentrate on homework, and especially her relationship with her mother, who is sort of a means-well kind of helicopter parent. It was refreshing to see an accurate portrayal of social anxiety in a YA book. A close friend of mine suffers from anxiety as well, and I could see so much of her in Jessie’s thoughts and behavior. That added to the depth of her storyline for me.
Annie. The book starts with Annie’s move into suburbia, where she meets Jessie at her new school. She comes from a broken home – her mom died a few years ago and she doesn’t get along at all with her new stepmom or stepsister. That, coupled with Annie’s own bullying experiences (I won’t give away more than that) make her story the harder of the two to read, in my opinion. She goes through a lot in this book, and some of the things she’s dealing with are HARD FREAKING ISSUES. Issues that teens should be exposed to, so that they know more about their options and how to make informed choices in their own lives. I loved how well Catherine Lo depicts Annie’s internal struggle as she is forced to go through trials that have been known to bowl over fully grown adults.
The romance. While the romance of this book is definitely backstage, I did really enjoy Jessie’s romantic arc. I only wish that we had actually seen more of it, because the best part doesn’t come until really very late in the story, and it’s adorable in every way.
If you’re looking for a book that tackles hard issues gracefully, and doesn’t give you cookie cutter characters, How It Ends is a great choice. This may sound like your typical friendship novel, but by the end you’ll see that it certainly isn’t.
Rating: 4.2/5 stars