“Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it.”
title: Every Exquisite Thing
author: Matthew Quick (author of The Silver Lining Playbook)
genre: YA/ coming-of-age/ contemporary
I was really disappointed by this book. It definitely does have a quirky plot line, but in general it was just- flat.
It has a great premise:
Nanette O’Hare, straight-A student and star athlete entering her senior year, receives a book from her favourite teacher. The book is called The Bubblegum Reaper (it’s such a cool title, I’d want to read it if it existed), and it makes Nanette question everything about her life. Through her teacher, Nanette became friends with the author of the book, Booker, who introduced Alex to her. Alex is a Bubblegum Reaper fan and a poet, and the two fall in love- sort of. But rebellion comes at a price…
Nanette is not sure anymore- whether she wants to keep playing soccer just because she is good at it, whether she wants to go to college, whether she wants to fit in.
Meanwhile, Nanette tries to figure out whether the main character of The Bubblegum Reaper is based on Booker himself. Is there a way we can actually make the future better?
The title “Every Exquisite Thing” comes from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde:
“Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.”
It is a book about the power of books, and it discusses rebellion, individuality and sacrifice. However, I didn’t enjoy it that much. I really admired the themes, but to me the book was poorly executed.
The characters were flat, especially the side characters. Of course the main character would seem like a rebel and heroine capable of independent thinking and self reflection if you make all the other characters complete morons! Even Nanette herself isn’t well fleshed-out. The whole time her narrative couldn’t shake free from self pity. And take her friend, Shannon, for another example. Shannon is a total jerk that only cares about popularity and boys. The only character that had some dimensions was Alex, but he wasn’t too likeable.
Secondly, I feel like Matthew Quick didn’t discuss the idea of rebellion fully enough. All he did was make the characters identify as “rebels”. He made them rebel by sticking a label on them and providing little further explanation. Yes, rebellion means chasing after what you want, but that doesn’t necessarily mean falling into a pit of self-pity and screwing up your life and ending up in therapy.
The one thing I liked about the book is that it had some interesting discussion about being privileged. Both Nanette and Shannon have their own thoughts on being from white privileged families, and their own way of coming to terms with that.
Every Exquisite Thing is a brave exploration of youth, rebellion and inner conflict. However, somehow all of its ingenious elements mushed together just resulted in a story that tasted somewhat… plain.