Summary: 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.
Any female can tell you that friendships – especially best friendships – during adolescence can be as full of drama as any romantic relationship. And it can hurt a lot more when they implode, too. Very rarely are the nuances of female friendship so well explored as they are in HOW IT ENDS, where we see the alternating points of view of Jessie and Annie as they meet, connect, become best friends, and fall apart. I went in expecting, based on the title, that this would be chronicle of Jessie and Annie’s friendship from beginning to end; as I neared the end of the book, I was dreading the idea, because both girls were such winning characters and watching their friendship fall apart was painful. I am happy to report that the title doesn’t refer to what you think it does, and the book ends exactly as it needs to. Both Jessie and Annie have complex family lives and personalities that both drive them together and try to tear them apart. They face very real challenges – mental illness, teen pregnancy, bullying, a parent’s remarriage – but these elements never feel tacked on or heavy-handed.
I admit that, as a bookish introvert, I identified far more with Jessie than with Annie. I especially appreciated the way the author explores the intricacies of girl bullying, with the character of Courtney picking on Jessie so subtly, maliciously, and chronically that Annie doesn’t even see it. This story felt both universal and extremely personal and specific – these girls aren’t anybody’s symbols, but fully realized people struggling to figure out what’s most important in life.
HOW IT ENDS is out now.