Looking for a great YA weekend read? Look no further! How It Ends by Catherine Lo is hot off the press, and a great way to kick off the first weekend of summer. Here’s a bit about the book:
There are two sides to every story.
It’s friends-at-first-sight for Jessie and Annie, proving the old adage that opposites attract. Shy, anxious Jessie would give anything to have Annie’s beauty and confidence. And Annie thinks Jessie has the perfect life, with her close-knit family and killer grades. They’re BFFs . . . until suddenly they’re not. Told through alternating points of view, How It Ends is the story of a friendship from first meeting to breakup, set against a tumultuous sophomore year of bullying, boys, and backstabbing.
Catherine Lo makes her debut with an honest, nuanced tale about the intricacies of female friendship.
We asked author Catherine Lo a few questions about the story. Here are her answers:
Did you set out to write a multilayered look at relationships between teen girls?
I knew that I wanted to write about two friends as they navigated through their tenth-grade year. I’m very interested in the way people can perceive the same events differently, and how truth can be a very elastic concept. I knew that I wanted to alternate between the perspectives of Annie and Jessie, so that readers would be able to see how (and why) they perceived the same events so differently. As their characters evolved, I became fascinated with the ways their individual personalities, backgrounds, and concerns colored their perceptions.
As I wrote about the girls, their friendship started to take center stage, and the complexity of their relationship began to unfold. There are so many pressures on teen girls, and so many expectations about how they should be, and think, and behave. Annie and Jessie struggle to understand themselves and each other within the context of those pressures, and their relationship is profoundly affected by them.
Which character do you identify with more: Jessie or Annie?
This is such an interesting question for me, because as I wrote each girl, I immersed myself completely in her point of view. There was never a time when I was rooting for one girl more than the other. Looking back, though, I see a lot of myself in Jessie. Especially the teen me. I struggled for years with social anxiety, without having a name for it. I spent a lot of time feeling like there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t seem to relax in social situations the way other girls my age did.
When I was Jessie’s age, I was very envious of girls like Annie and was blind to the pressures they were under. To my mind, they were stronger than I was, and they had every advantage. Writing Annie’s character was very important to me, because the teen me would have benefited a great deal from understanding the struggles other girls went through. I would have felt a lot less alone had I understood back then that everyone was facing obstacles and getting by the best they could.
How did your work as a teacher for at-risk teens influence this novel?
I have the advantage of getting to interact with my target audience every day. High school is such an intense and confusing time in our lives, but as we grow older we tend to forget about how pivotal those years are. My work with teens keeps me honest as a writer. It reminds me daily of what it’s like to walk the halls of a high school, juggling the pressures of teachers, family, and peers. It also opens my eyes to the myriad of different high school experiences there are. I teach a very diverse group of teens, and I get to see the world through their eyes. It’s a writer’s dream, and I’m enormously thankful to all the young people who let me into their lives and talk to me about their experiences.
June 8 is National Best Friends Day. Any plans to celebrate?
I’m counting the days until National Best Friends Day! It’s such incredible timing that it falls on the day after How It Ends releases. We’re planning to celebrate friendship on Twitter that day, encouraging best friends to take selfies together and post them online with the hashtags #howitends and #bestfriendsday. Bonus points for including a copy of How It Ends in the photo!
What do you hope readers take away from the book?
More than anything, I hope I’ve written a book that will draw readers into the story and where they will find something to connect with. My favorite novels are ones that challenge me to think about my life and relationships in new ways. I hope that readers—whether they identify with Annie, Jessie, Courtney, Larissa, Scott … or even Madeleine—will find something that speaks to them within the pages of How It Ends, and that inspires them to look at their friendships in new ways.
What do you say to teens who are going through a rocky patch with their own best friend?
One of the most exciting things I get to do in my role as a behavior support teacher is to help teens process through relationship problems. It’s incredibly rewarding to sit down with two young people whose friendship is suffering and help them truly talk to each other. You’d be amazed at the depth of insight and emotion that surfaces when two friends stop arguing and start listening to each other.
What’s next for you?
I’ve been hard at work on another young adult novel, and I’m incredibly excited about it. It’s too early to say very much about the story, but I will say that it follows three teens through a scandal that rocks their high school.
Thanks so much, Catherine! Click here to buy the book!