Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick

Nanette is quiet and thinks of herself as a bit of an oddball even though she is captain of her school's soccer team.  She spends her lunch periods with her beloved English teacher who gives her a copy of a cult classic book called The Bubblegum Reaper.  The book speaks to Nanette and she wants to know what happened to the characters.  Her teacher tells her that the author of the book lives in their town and after a meeting over coffee, Nanette and the author become friends despite the fact that he refuses to talk about his book.  One night he invites Nanette to his house for dinner and that is when she meets another fan of The Bubblegum Reaper, Alex.  Alex and Nanette quickly bond and begin dating and Nanette begins questioning who she really is.  For instance, does she even like playing soccer and does she actually want to go to college?  Alex, meanwhile, has deemed himself a protector of younger, bullied kids and on one of these missions he ends up in jail after assaulting someone.  He is sent away to reform school where something tragic happens.  Nanette's journey almost seems to just be beginning...

I am definitely too old, cynical and aware of how lame I was as a teen to appreciate this book.  Like Nanette - like every single young person ever - I was very aware of how deep and unique and old soul-ish I was as a teen.  Now that I am old and curmudgeonly and work with teens every day I realize that I was just a stereotype of teen angst.  This introspection made it difficult for me to identify with either Nanette or Alex and their struggles.  I'm sure I'm supposed to feel deeply for them and admire Nanette on her journey of self-discovery but honestly, I was agreeing with the friend who told her she was no different than all the rest of them and thinking that her parents were saints for the level of support they gave her.  Like I said, old and cranky.  But part of my introspection makes it possible for me to see the parallels to my own dedication to Thoreau and determination to live deeply and not, upon dying, find that I had not lived at all.  So while Every Exquisite Thing left me rolling my eyes, I can totally see it being gobbled up by my students who will be devoted to the deep messages within.

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