"Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic."
-Matthew Quick, Every Exquisite Thing
This is the fourth book I've read by Matthew Quick, and I can definitely say that I've been impressed with each one! Quick has a talent for writing about mental health issues in way that makes them feel so real, and in a world that constantly trivializes mental health, I think that's really important. Really, really important.
Nanette is about to enter her senior year of high school when she reads a book, The Bubblegum Reaper. This book awakens a rebellious spirit in Nanette, allowing her to finally be open with a reckless abandon. After befriending a reclusive author and a troubled poet and fellow fan, she must learn to find a balance between her rebellious side and her life before.
Though I'm not in high school anymore, I think many teens coming to the end of their high school experience would find this book incredibly relatable, especially because Nanette feels like she was pressured into a lot of the activities she participated in, like soccer. Society places this immense pressure on teens to be successful and well-rounded in everything that they do, often driving them into states of anxiety or depression, like depicted in this particular story. And Matthew Quick does a marvelous job putting this exact state of being into words, while still addressing the life of privilege that Nanette comes from.
The other thing that's awesome about this book is that it is a book about the way that books can open up your world view and completely change your life (metafiction, anyone?). This has happened to me personally so often that I love the fact that it is a book that catalysts Nanette's journey toward learning more about herself and breaking free from the cage that she feels trapped in.
That being said, there was one thing that bothered me while reading this, one small instance that made me cringe slightly. Fairly early in the narrative, Nanette says, "I used to worry I was asexual or something." The connotation provided here rubbed me the wrong way, and while I understand that this is the view of the speaker and not necessarily the author, I wasn't sure that it needed to be included in here anyway. The connotation of "worrying," as if being asexual was a bad thing, frustrated me a bit. As someone who is continuously on the lookout for positive portrayals of asexuality (as there are very few, especially in YA), I was a little disheartened by this small instance here.
However, other than that, this is a spectacular book that I think should be included in any high school classroom, to show students that it's okay to not have life completely figured out when you graduate high school.