Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Book Review: Where It Began


LC's Summer Reads will be featured throughout the Summer of 2012-- These are books that I decided would be perfect for on the beach, in the sun, or pretty much wherever I happen to be this summer! Click on the button above to see what other books I plan on reading! :)
*****

Author: Ann Redisch Stampler
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Pages: 369

Summary: Gabby Gardiner wakes up in a hospital bed looking like a cautionary ad for drunk driving—and without a single memory of the accident that landed her there. But what she can recall, in frank and sardonic detail, is the year leading up to the crash.

As Gabby describes her transformation from Invisible Girl to Trendy Girl Who Dates Billy Nash (aka Most Desirable Boy Ever), she is left wondering: Why is Billy suddenly distancing himself from her? What do her classmates know that Gabby does not? Who exactly was in the car that night? And why has Gabby been left to take the fall?

As she peels back the layers of her life, Gabby begins to realize that her climb up the status ladder has been as intoxicating as it has been morally complex... and that nothing about her life is what she has imagined it to be.

LC's Take:

It isn't very often that I sit down to start a book and have it finished about 4 hours later-- As much as I love reading, I'm pretty slow at it and I usually lose steam and need a few breaks in between. But every now and again, I get my hands on a book that I just cannot put down, that I just cannot get enough of, and end up devouring the whole dang thing in one day. Where It Began was one of those books...

Gabby Gardiner has what many people would call a "privileged life." She's grown up in the "Three B's" -- Bel Air, Brentwood and Beverly Hills-- she goes to a prestigious private school, and her mom just dumped a ton of cash to give Gabby a totally hot new makeover. But Gabby's life is far from perfect, and she feels completely out of place among the other rich and beautiful people at Winston High. The pressure is constantly on for her to be absolutely perfect, to get into an Ivy League school, and to not under any circumstances come across as being "regular," or God forbid-- a "sub-regular" freak who wants to go to art school.

It isn't until Gabby somehow miraculously catches the eye of the God-like Billy Nash that her life is saved from sub-regularity. For Gabby, Billy symbolizes the perfection she's supposed to attain-- her savior that rockets her into popularity and brings her new acceptance from everyone, including her parents. Unfortunately, Gabby's entire life ends up crashing down around her when she finds herself in the hospital after getting drunk and wrapping Billy's BMW around a tree. With no memory of what actually happened, Gabby now has to figure out how to pick up the pieces of her not-so-perfect life and somehow hold onto the guy who seems to give that life purpose.

So I thought that in Gabby, the author was able to create a main character who was flawed but who you just can't help loving to death and completely sympathizing with. She was smart and sarcastic, but she was also very innocent and susceptible to the world around her. She had a rather cynical outlook on life but at the same time she had a good heart. And even though she was lost and misguided throughout pretty much the whole book, I was still rooting for Gabby hardcore and wishing her a happy ending.

Now, as some of you may know, I absolutely hate when books portray female protagonists who are pathetically dependent and obsessive about their loser jerk-face boyfriends. But in this case, the dynamics between Gabby and Billy really worked marvelously with the whole plot of the story. Yes, Gabby has pretty much zero self-esteem and clung to Billy as if he were God himself, being completely unaware of what a creep he really was. But this insecurity and vulnerability in the main character didn't make me hate her at all or think that she was pathetic or crazy-- If anything, I felt sorry for her and could relate to her in many ways. As the reader, you could definitely understand why Gabby thinks and feels the way she does, and how she came to value superficiality over real love and a healthy relationship, due to the fact that her parents, her friends, and her whole school expects her to look and act a certain way. She was still likable and interesting, and her weaknesses only made her that much more likable and interesting.

The world-building was another plus in this book. I just adored how the author presented the world of Winston High and the society Gabby lives in-- from the jocks to the "Slutmuffins" to the doctors and nurses at the hospital, it was just one hilarious character sketch after another that had me giggling to myself throughout the book. Gabby gets just how ridiculously fake her world is, and life through her eyes was definitely entertaining to follow! There was clearly a tragicomedy feel to this book and I really loved that aspect of it.

Besides the main character and world-building, the other major thing that really struck me about this book was the writing. Narrated through Gabby's voice, it was both snarky and sarcastic, but also incredibly smart and heartfelt. Not to mention it flowed really well, which is probably why I couldn't put the book down and finished it in a day. The internal thoughts and emotions that are woven throughout the story not only revealed Gabby's life leading up to the car accident, but also worked perfectly to keep me totally wrapped up in what was going on. The twist at the end threw both Gabby and myself for a loop, but thanks to it, Gabby becomes much wiser and aware of what really matters-- and for me, that kind of character growth is what makes a book worth reading.

I am definitely giving 5 stars to Where It Began-- which I haven't done for a book in a really long time, since I very rarely pass out 5 stars. I thought this book was very real, the main character was really genuine, and I'm pretty sure that I laughed out loud at least three dozen times as I was reading. This was one awesome coming-of-age kind of story-- intelligent, but not taking itself *too* seriously. If you are thinking about reading a YA in the contemporary genre any time soon, I would definitely recommend this one to you-- trust me, it won't disappoint!

~Cover Talk~

The cover for Where it Began is not one that really stood out to me much at first, but I think that when you really take a look at it, you see just how gorgeous it is. There is something about it that I really like-- maybe because it's very simple and understated yet makes an impact on you at the same time. It isn't one of the showiest covers out there in the YA world, but you can clearly tell the genre is contemporary and the girl's direct and unapologetic gaze makes you look at it a second time.Very beautiful!

LC's Rating:
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A smart and heartfelt contemporary book that deals with some really hard issues in a direct and  approachable way, Where It Began was also really funny and entertaining. I COULD NOT put this one down!!

Check it out!
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6 comments:

  1. Okay so this is the second glowing review of this one that I've read recently...and I really love how you described Where It Began, Lea! It obviously clicked with you, and I bet it will with me.

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  2. I saw it around last year but didn't give it another thought. I do like flawed characters to be honest - they feel more real and I really like this!

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  3. I have an ARC of this, but haven't started it yet. I really need to get on that. If you read it in one sitting, then it has to be amazing! Great review! I'm glad you loved it! Beautiful cover too. <3

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  4. I've been meaning to pick this one up for a while now! Thanks for the great review. I'm glad to see that you rated it a 5. :)

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  5. I read this book in June for contemporary month and loved EVERY second of it! I agree with you, between the fantastic characters and Ann's brilliant and snarky writing it was impossible to put it down! Love, love, loved your review LC! :D

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  6. I just wanted to drop in and thank you for this lovely review, which more than made my day!
    Ann

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Your comments make me happy :)

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