Nanette O’Hare is trying to figure stuff out in Matthew Quick’s (Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock) YA novel Every Exquisite Thing. She’s a straight-A senior, and a super-star soccer player from an affluent family, so on the surface one might assume that Nanette has got it all going on. But it’s not true. Since mid-way through her junior year she’s been eating lunch with her English teacher, Mr. Graves, and avoiding her bestie, Shannon, whose questionable sexual escapades had started bothering Nanette back in middle school.
One day Mr. Graves hands her a tattered copy of Nigel Booker’s novel The Bubblegum Reaper, a book that Mr. Graves claims changed his life.
It’s maybe not the most literary work in the world. Probably a bit dated. But it’s a cult classic and I have a feeling that it might be the perfect read for you. Maybe even a rite of passage for people like us.
The Bubblegum Reaper does, in fact, have a tremendous impact on Nanette’s life. The book’s author lives in her home town, and Mr. Graves arranges for the two to meet.
Spending time with Booker was becoming an addiction, mostly because it was the only part of my day when I felt like I could be myself – or maybe like there was one person in the world who didn’t want me to be something I didn’t want to be or to act a certain way or to go along with everything that others pushed into my life.
Through Mr. Booker she meets Alex, a boy her age who writes poetry. The bond between the two teens is cemented as they talk about the book and share their own feelings of isolation and disenfranchisement.
It is through these relationships that Nanette is able to shake off some of the personas she’s adopted over the years. She starts to say no when she might have just said yes and, ultimately, though certainly not without some heartache, Nanette is able to forge her own path and become the person she really wants to be.
Every Exquisite Thing is a philosophical, quirky and thoughtful coming-of-age story.