I just finished reading The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord. It was the perfect summer read- quick and hard to put down. Paige Hancock is just beginning her junior year of high school and she is ready for a change. The past year has been a difficult one- her boyfriend, Aaron, died- and while she is still sad about Aaron, she is ready to move on from all the pitying looks she gets from everyone in their small town. She is ready to embrace life again and she has made the perfect plan to begin again.
The characters in this book are wonderful. I love that Paige is nerdy and awkward without being a caricature of nerdy and awkward. She is extraordinarily Type A (she picks out each days outfit at the beginning of the week and really doesn't like it when her sister messes with it), she is nicknamed Grammar Girl, and she chooses to join the QuizBowl team in an effort to be more involved at school. I love the way she feels about school and isn't ashamed of it. On the first day back from summer, she is glad to be there:
Did you just intentionally inhale the scent of high school?" Kayleigh asked, laughing.
I shrugged. "I know it's not a good smell, but it smells like...possibility."
"Possibility has a smell?", Morgan asked, teasing me. "What else does? Happiness?"
"Sure," I said, giving her a defiant look. "Birthday candle smoke. Movie theater popcorn. A fresh Christmas tree."
I also love her group of friends and that they love her just as she is. I like that her best friend Tessa seems to already know who she is and cares very little about the opinions of her peers. And I love how supportive they all are of one another.
Morgan insisted on painting my nails every weekend while we marathoned TV shows. It seemed so silly, so pointless. Until I looked down at my mint-green or petal-pink nails in class: one beautiful. glossy thing in my life. My friends added the first colors to my black-and-white world.
These are friends worth having. And they are the kind of friends we should all strive to be.
I love that Paige's family is such a part of the story. So many times authors leave out these other relationships and it seems so obvious that these are the people who make the main characters who they are. Her divorced parents confuse her, her grandmother is her truest confidant with whom she shares things she could tell no one else. She even grows to see her sister in a new way, "so nearly a peer." And through these relationships, Paige is able to grow and learn. Some relationships work out, others don't. A bad relationship can be ended and a bad boyfriend isn't better than no boyfriend at all.
I also really loved all the nerdy things that Lord wove throughout the book. The summer reading assignment in their Honors English class was Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. I loved reading that in high school and even thinking about it still makes me laugh. I loved the bit when Tessa and Paige agree to watch a Firefly marathon with Max, but I really laughed when Ryan came in and said this:
"Okay, what is happening here?"
"Sci-fi education at its finest," Max said.
"Oh my God," Ryan said, his gaze moving between me and Tessa. "Are you being held here against your will? Blink twice if you're hostages."
I love the nerd-poking and the fact that no one is embarrassed by their nerdiness.
Finally, my favorite thing about this book was that it Paige wasn't the typical whiney-girl-who-has-to-get-the-boy-or-life-is-over kind of person. She makes herself. She takes her grandmother's advice to "live her life" and that is just such a good thing. "Live your life and everything else will fall into place." "Love extra, even if it means you hurt extra, too. That's how we honor them." Man, I loved Paige's grandmother. And I loved that Paige was smart enough to take her advice.
I used to think it took me so long because, on some level, I wasn't quite ready to be with [spoiler]. But now I think I wasn't quite ready to be me. I needed to relearn myself.. to venture into new friendships and nerdy after-school activities and my own mind. I needed to realize that I was one-fourth of a family that is not normal and that no family is normal. I needed to paddle... I needed to let go of my unknowns...