Matthew Quick’s thought-provoking coming-of-age novel tells the story of Nanette O’Hare who struggles to discover who she is during her final year at high school. Every Exquisite Thing is a YA book with strong teen appeal.
Nanette is given an out-of-print fictional cult novel The Bubblegum Reaper by her favourite teacher. After several readings Nanette is propelled onto a journey which has her questioning her place in the world and ultimately introduces her to the cast of the novel. She rebels against her mapped-out, privileged middle-class lifestyle and embarks upon a friendship with Nigel Booker, the reclusive author of the cult book. Along the way, Nanette meets her first boyfriend; troubled teen and talented poet, Alex.
To be honest, the rapid beginning was confusing and it took a while figure out who Nanette was and how old she was, but once I got past my initial confusion, the book was a dream and easy to read.
I applaud Mr. Quick’s exploration of teen bullying, grief, family breakdown and social dynamics and isolation. I loved Nanette O’Hare because she was a strong and brave female protagonist. She battled hard on the teen landscape and I was impressed with the way she navigated through conformity and rebellion.
The Bubblegum Reaper shows the importance of arts and literature and the role it can play in self-discovery. I love that books can push you to question who you are and what you want from life. Nanette’s readings of The Bubblegum Reaper forced her to re-examine her life and ultimately set her on the path to growing up and experimenting with who she was.
The characters were well-developed and fleshed out, real people. I was particularly impressed by the adults in the book not having all the answers. As June, Nanette’s therapist says reassuringly, teens don’t have to have all the answers:
You pick up goals and hopes along the way. Don’t worry, there are more in your future. You’ll see. And you will change. Change can be good. Caterpillar to butterfly.
Every Exquisite Thing had a story within a story with The Bubblegum Reaper and it had several other stories spinning throughout the book. Mr. Quick skilfully wrapped up all loose ends and left readers with a satisfying ending.
Teens who don’t fit the homogenous mould will find Every Exquisite Thing both inspiring and reassuring.
Every Exquisite Thing is due for release in May 2016. Thank you to Hachette Australia for providing an ARC copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.