Overall Rating: 3.75/5
Quality of Prose: 4/5
Quality of Story: 3.5/5
Quality of Characters: 3.5/5
Ability to Make the Audience Think/Feel Differently: 3/5
How Long It Took Me to Finish: 2 days
A 1 Sentence Summary
After a car crash that ruined his chances at the tennis scholarship he had always counted on, Ezra Faulkner begins his senior year, falls in love, and tries to figure out who he really is.
My Favorite Quotes
“And so we sat there in the sickening sillage of the truth, neither of us angry, or upset, just muddling through this shared sorrow, this collective pity. And as much as I wanted to sound my tragic wail over the rooftops, and let go of the day, and crawl back toward that safe harbor, and give in to the dying of the light, and to do all of those unheroically injured things that people never write poems about, I didn’t.”
“She tasted like buried treasure and swing sets and coffee. She tasted the way fireworks felt, like something you could get close to but never really have just for yourself.”
“I read somewhere that the hair and fingernails on dead bodies don’t actually grow, it just looks like they do because the skin contracts as the body dries out. So it’s possible to lie even in death, to deceive people from beyond the grave. I wondered if that’s what this was. If I was staring at the rotting corpse of what Cassidy and I had once had, wrongly convinced there was still life in it, grasping onto an uninformed lie.”
“Oscar Wilde once said that to live is the rarest thing in the world, because most people just exist, and that’s all. I don’t know if he’s right, but I do know that I spent a long time existing, and now, I intend to live.”
What I Loved About It
While reading the first half of this book, I was completely certain it would be a pleasant but ultimately forgettable high school romance (because, let’s be real, that’s kind of what it’s marketed as), but right around the halfway marker I realized this book was so much more than that. In fact, I wouldn’t classify it as a romance at all–but instead a classic coming of age story. There’s a first heartbreak sure (which most coming of age stories tend to have), but also a main character who is struggling with who he is in the wake of a major life change and as he prepares to enter the real world, and this makes this book so much more interesting and more important than a simple YA romance.
A quote from the end of the book that perfectly encapsulates this is when Ezra, the protagonist, is discussing whether it was falling in love with Cassidy Thorpe that made him grow into the person he is at the close of the novel and says, “I never should have given her so much credit. It all got tangled together, her appearance and Toby coming back into my life and the first time I ever read a book that spoke to me, and the question of who I wanted to be in the aftermath of my personal tragedy. Because I made a decision that year, to start mattering in a way that had nothing to do with sports teams or plastic crowns, and the reality is, I might have made that decision without her.” This book isn’t really about a love story, but really a teenage boy on a journey of self-discovery.
And what an amazing journey it is to watch. I mean, seriously. The biggest thing that impresses me about Schneider’s writing in this novel is the character growth Ezra undergoes. Though you get hints throughout the whole book that Ezra is smart (little scientific metaphors he makes or when he talks about the Great Gatsby–which is literally all the time), he also comes right out and says that he’s no star student, that he could/would never consider going to a university any more prestigious than a state school. And yet, as the book progresses, he embraces his own intelligence more and more and makes bigger plans for his future. It is truly incredible to see him at the end of the book investing in his own intellectual future. I don’t know if I’ve ever loved watching a character grow as much as I loved watching Ezra in this novel.
And though I am not a teenaged male former jock, ladies’ man, and homecoming king, I can relate to Ezra’s journey of finding himself and having that finding being tangled up in falling in love for the first time and not being able at first to determine how much of his new self is him and how much is a result of loving that person he loved. I can also relate to the discovery that high school popularity and the expectations of others don’t matter at all. This book is able to capture and verbalize that ridiculous notion everyone has in high school that they have to hide their true selves from literally everyone or they’ll be shunned and made fun of forever. I’ve never read a book that conveys that feeling as well as this book does. It really brought me back to my high school days (and not in a bittersweet-nostalgia kind of way and more in a man-high-school-is-so-dumb kind of way.)
What My Students Could Learn From It
By reading this book, I think my students could all learn that they shouldn’t hide themselves or dumb themselves down or hold back to seem cool, and that one day (namely, college) the people who are original and never hold back will be the coolest people out there. I also just think my kiddos would relate to it and enjoy watching Ezra’s coming of age journey as much as I did.