Saturday, December 31, 2011

Review: Where It Began by Ann Redisch Stampler


Where It Began by Ann Redisch Stampler

Pages: 384
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Published: March 6th, 2012
IBSN: 9781442423213

Gabby Gardiner wakes up in a hospital bed looking like a cautionary ad for drunk driving—and without a single memory of the accident that landed her there. But what she can recall, in frank and sardonic detail, is the year leading up to the crash.

As Gabby describes her transformation from Invisible Girl to Trendy Girl Who Dates Billy Nash (aka Most Desirable Boy Ever), she is left wondering: Why is Billy suddenly distancing himself from her? What do her classmates know that Gabby does not? Who exactly was in the car that night? And why has Gabby been left to take the fall?

As she peels back the layers of her life, Gabby begins to realize that her climb up the status ladder has been as intoxicating as it has been morally complex...and that nothing about her life is what she has imagined it to be.

Gabby wakes up in hospital with no memory of the night that put her there, but what happened was obvious. With the blood alcohol concentration of a keg and in her hand the keys to her boyfriend's car wrapped around a tree beside her, her future looks to be a blur of DUI charges, jail time, and perhaps the most daunting in her mother's eyes, a face mangled by the crash. In the aftermath, she'll question if the events of that night were really what they seemed.

Ann Redisch Stampler's YA debut gets under your skin. Far from the light contemporary the cover and blurb imply, you accompany Gabby through a difficult journey and through so many intense and complicated emotions and realisations -- that growing into the person she wants to be is more important than any relationship is perhaps the most profound of all.

Written in evocative prose in a voice inherently teenaged and inherently Gabby. The narration was so personal, Gabby felt real and like someone we really know. I felt as though in the shoes of a fourth member of their friend group -- another Lisa or Anita bringing board games to her house during her recovery and asking her to open up. Her personality is well realised and well portrayed such that her shortcomings are plausible and sympathetic rather than frustrating.

The characters are dynamic and realistic. I prefer to relate to my characters than to idealise them, so their well-conveyed angst and bias and jealousy and ignorance made them only more engaging. Their flaws and poor decisions bring them to life and make them real. The characterisation was superb, and the narrative voice so true and raw. Stampler creates characters which explore moral grey areas that you can learn things about yourself from.

Gabby's reflection and emotional turmoil pay off in the end, in a huge and unexpected and perfect complete turn around. The way she finds the strength to accept what happened to her free of any bitterness and pursue what she really needs rather than wants is inspiring, and also gives us the comfort of knowing she finds the peace she so deserves.

Where It Began tackles relevant issues in a non-preachy tone, making for a story we get more than a few hours of entertainment from. Characters well-written and are created with relatability prioritised over likeablility, to be affecting on a much deeper level. It's an upcoming, enriching contemporary any fans of the genre should definitely seek out in early March.