How it Ends – Catherine Lo
How it Ends is the story of friendship and the ebbs and flows that go along with it. Jessie is an anxious, shy, loner who has been bullied by her two ex-friends since junior high. Annie is the loud, rebellious, in your face new girl. Separately, they are fragile and lost. Together, they are strong and comfortable in their own skins. Jessie is the yin to Annie’s yang. Surely when you have a bond like that with someone, it can overcome anything…
…or can it?
Both girls are fighting their own individual battles. For Jessie, that is her anxiety and subsequent panic attacks. For Annie, it’s dealing with her new insta-family in her stepmother, Madge (Madeline) and her daughter Sophie. Annie is convinced Madge hates her and as for Sophie? Well, they’re not exactly going to win the ‘sisters of the year’ award. It’s only fitting that the more uncomfortable and out of place Annie feels within her own family the more comfortable she feels as part of Jessie’s.
But Jessie isn’t having the best home life either. Her mom is the definition of a helicopter mom. Jessie has social anxiety and is on medication, medication that her mother closely monitors. On the other hand, Jessie’s father doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with his daughter. In addition to her parents differing opinions regarding her ‘issues’ Jessie is embarrassed by their board game nights complete with tacos and sombreros, much to the chagrin of her new best friend Annie, who think it’s the coolest thing in the world. But for better or worse, at least Jessie has Annie.
And then…well, then things start to change. Alliances shift. Annie becomes closer to Courtney and Lissette, aka the bane of Jessie’s existence. And the more Jessie feels like she’s losing Annie, the more she clings to her. And as much as Annie loves Jessie, she doesn’t want to have only one friend. Then, of course, a boy comes into the mix. Annie starts dating Scott, Jessie’s lab partner whom she has a huge crush on, even though she won’t admit to it.
However, I should clarify that this is not a book about two best friends falling apart due to a guy. Yes, he’s one reason that Jessie starts to pull back from Annie, but he’s not the main reason. I think that’s really true to life, which is hardly ever black and white. There are shades of gray. It doesn’t help that Jessie keeps her anxiety hidden from Annie. I get it, though. I do. We still have a huge stigma surrounding mental health and people do judge you when they find out you have anxiety. I think it’s because people equate anxiety with weakness.
While reading this book, I was struck by how much I could relate to Jessie. A lot of what she deals with, I did when I was younger and still do now. Jessie has this incessant need to check and make sure that nobody is upset with her, to check that Annie is truly her best friend and that she won’t pull a Courtney on her. Now, I know for people who don’t have anxiety – or for someone like Annie who is left in the dark for much of the novel about the extent of Jessie’s anxiety – these are behaviors that are considered annoying. But I must say that anxiety can be incredibly crippling. Imagine walking a tightrope and that is what having anxiety is like when you’re dealing with the outside world. You’re constantly trying to figure out how to balance keeping yourself calm while not intruding on others. I know first-hand that the need for constant reassurance unfortunately comes at the expense – or annoyance – of others.
So I guess I can’t be too mad at Annie for not getting it and Annie goes through a lot of her own share of pain, and I felt for her, too. There’s one event that takes place in Annie’s life that is completely heart wrenching. and I am sure it’s one that too many young girls, or women in general, have to go through.
I think this is a pretty realistic story of the trials and tribulations of friendship, among other things, like how we feel about ourselves, which is really the most important relationship we can ever have in life.