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How It Ends Hardcover – June 7, 2016
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From the Publisher
Did You Set Out to Write a Multilayered Look at Relationships Between Teen Girls?
I knew that I wanted to write about two friends as they navigated through their tenth-grade year. I’m very interested in the way people can perceive the same events differently, and how truth can be a very elastic concept. I knew that I wanted to alternate between the perspectives of Annie and Jessie, so that readers would be able to see how (and why) they perceived the same events so differently. As their characters evolved, I became fascinated with the ways their individual personalities, backgrounds, and concerns colored their perceptions.
As I wrote about the girls, their friendship started to take center stage, and the complexity of their relationship began to unfold. There are so many pressures on teen girls, and so many expectations about how they should be, and think, and behave. Annie and Jessie struggle to understand themselves and each other within the context of those pressures, and their relationship is profoundly affected by them.
Which Character Do You Identify With More: Jessie or Annie?
This is such an interesting question for me, because as I wrote each girl, I immersed myself completely in her point of view. There was never a time when I was rooting for one girl more than the other. Looking back, though, I see a lot of myself in Jessie. Especially the teen me. I struggled for years with social anxiety, without having a name for it. I spent a lot of time feeling like there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t seem to relax in social situations the way other girls my age did.
When I was Jessie’s age, I was very envious of girls like Annie and was blind to the pressures they were under. To my mind, they were stronger than I was, and they had every advantage. Writing Annie’s character was very important to me, because the teen me would have benefited a great deal from understanding the struggles other girls went through. I would have felt a lot less alone had I understood back then that everyone was facing obstacles and getting by the best they could.
How did Your Work as a Teacher for At-Risk Teens Influence this Novel?
I have the advantage of getting to interact with my target audience every day. High school is such an intense and confusing time in our lives, but as we grow older we tend to forget about how pivotal those years are. My work with teens keeps me honest as a writer. It reminds me daily of what it’s like to walk the halls of a high school, juggling the pressures of teachers, family, and peers. It also opens my eyes to the myriad of different high school experiences there are. I teach a very diverse group of teens, and I get to see the world through their eyes. It’s a writer’s dream, and I’m enormously thankful to all the young people who let me into their lives and talk to me about their experiences.
June 8 is National Best Friends Day. Any Plans to Celebrate?
I’m counting the days until National Best Friends Day! It’s such incredible timing that it falls on the day after How It Ends releases. We’re planning to celebrate friendship on Twitter that day, encouraging best friends to take selfies together and post them online with the hashtags #howitends and #bestfriendsday. Bonus points for including a copy of How It Ends in the photo!
What do You Hope Readers Take Away from the Book?
More than anything, I hope I’ve written a book that will draw readers into the story and where they will find something to connect with. My favorite novels are ones that challenge me to think about my life and relationships in new ways. I hope that readers—whether they identify with Annie, Jessie, Courtney, Larissa, Scott … or even Madeleine—will find something that speaks to them within the pages of How It Ends, and that inspires them to look at their friendships in new ways.
What do You Say to Teens Who are Going Through a Rocky Patch With their Own Best Friend?
One of the most exciting things I get to do in my role as a behavior support teacher is to help teens process through relationship problems. It’s incredibly rewarding to sit down with two young people whose friendship is suffering and help them truly talk to each other. You’d be amazed at the depth of insight and emotion that surfaces when two friends stop arguing and start listening to each other.
What’s Next for You?
I’ve been hard at work on another young adult novel, and I’m incredibly excited about it. It’s too early to say very much about the story, but I will say that it follows three teens through a scandal that rocks their high school.
From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Friendship can be complicated, especially in high school. Told in alternating points of view, this debut YA novel explores what happens in Jessie and Annie's relationship during their sophomore year in a Canadian suburb. Lo sustains reader interest by switching perspectives, creating distinct voices for her two main characters, who fluctuate as they grow throughout the novel. Jessie is initially sheltered and withdrawn in social situations after suffering a traumatic bullying experience in middle school. Struggling with anxiety and panic attacks, she keeps her mental health problems hidden until Annie moves to her school. Beautiful and seemingly confident, Annie notices Jessie immediately, and they click, instantly becoming best friends. Yet Annie's determination masks her own trauma, as she struggles with her dad's new wife, her stepsister, and the death of her beloved mother in a tragic car accident six years earlier. When Annie begins hanging out with Jessie's former bullies and starts dating the hot guy she's been secretly crushing on, their friendship starts to unravel. It doesn't take long before misunderstanding leads to backstabbing, with each sharing the other's most private confidences with the world. Give this to mature teens who are looking to step up from Ann Brashares's "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" series. It explores issues such as cyberbullying, abortion, and mental health. VERDICT This realistic portrayal of friendship is recommended as a first purchase where realistic fiction is popular.—Rachel Zuffa, Racine Public Library, WI
treatment of mental illness and risky behavior is refreshing, hard, and necessary."
"Lo skillfully shows how the girls’ very different past experiences affect their perspectives; anger and jealousy... complicate matters, and both girls spiral downward before they can learn to trust again. Despite dark moments, Lo’s novel is an inspiring read, revealing the power of courage and compassion."
"A thoughtful depiction of teen friendship and the competing costs of concealing—and revealing—the truth."
"As harrowing and realistic a look at the life cycle of a young friendship as I've ever seen. It's by turns funny, warm, soulful, and heart wrenching. The author's work with teens shines through in her razor sharp dialogue."
—Jeff Zentner, author of The Serpent King
"How It Ends is a realistic story about the beautiful complexities of friendship, from the first meeting to the first betrayal, and all the secrets and self-discovery in-between. Totally compelling."
—Alexis Bass, author of Love & Other Theories
Top customer reviews
ONE WORD: Oversimplification
Fifteen-year-old Jessie, insecure and anxious, is surprised when new girl Annie wants to be friends. Annie, still grieving her mother's sudden death, feels like an outcast in her own home with her critical stepmother and perfect stepsister. When these two hurting girls become best friends, their issues collide with misunderstandings, poor communication, Jessie's well meaning mother, bullies and a boy not worth either of their energies threatens to destroy both girls.
Told from both Annie and Jessie's first person POVs, the best part of HOW IT ENDS is that both characters are complex, flawed, hurting and sympathetic. Theirs isn't a friendship that ends because one girl is wrong and the other right, both girls make mistakes. Debut writer Catherine Lo did a great job showing how friendship can go wrong over misinterpretations and miscommunications, and that both girls contributed to the scenarios. I loved the Avery family and Mrs Avery, even when she stepped over the line, but found Annie's family to be stereotypical. I wish her relationship with her stepsister was further explored. With the exception of Charlie and Sophie, the minor characters felt clichéd.
I found the ending to be overly optimistic and Disneyesque, but hopeful which is why HOW IT ENDS will probably be received better my tweens and younger teens, despite of a few mature scenarios.
THEMES: friendship, high school, growing up, families, stepfamilies, romance, pregnancy, bullying
HOW IT ENDS is a great example of the complexities of teen friendship, misinterpretation, miscommunication from the points of view of two insecure girls.
The narrative alternates between Jessie's and Annie's perspective on a chapter by chapter basis. Their voices sound similar, but this is not an obstacle to becoming absorbed in the book. Both girls are multi-dimensional believable teens, and the author does an excellent job of exploring such topics as anxiety disorders, stepfamily friction, helicopter parenting, etc. as she presents each girl's narrative in a way that lets you understand and sympathize, but also see their mistakes and flaws. The high school scenes all ring true, so if you were bullied or ever bullied someone then, you may find yourself squirming uncomfortably at times.