Definitions of Indefinable Things

Definitions of Indefinable Things

by Whitney Taylor


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Reggie isn’t really a romantic: she’s been hurt too often, and doesn’t let people in as a rule. Plus, when you’re dealing with the Three Stages of Depression, it’s hard to feel warm and fuzzy. When Reggie meets Snake, though, he doesn’t give her much of a choice. Snake has a neck tattoo, a Twizzler habit, and a fair share of arrogance, but he’s funny, charming, and interested in Reggie.

Snake also has an ex-girlfriend who's seven months pregnant. Good thing Reggie isn’t a romantic.

Definitions of Indefinable Things follows three teens as they struggle to comprehend love, friendship, and depression—and realize one definition doesn’t always cover it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544805040
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 04/04/2017
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 708,779
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.30(d)
Lexile: HL730L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Whitney Taylor is an English and psychology major from Virginia who likes to pretend she's a supermodel from New York City. She wrote Definitions of Indefinable Things, her debut novel, while a freshman in college.

Read an Excerpt


Nothing made me want to get hit by a bus more than Tuesday night happy pill (see: Zoloft) runs. After a lengthy car ride with my mother, who spent all ten minutes singing a God-awful Christian melody and praying for the state of my wayward soul, I’d have to physically restrain my hands to keep myself from shoving the door open and rolling out onto the highway. Sometimes I prayed, too. That a piano would fall from the sky and crush my miserable, suburban existence. Or that God would set CVS on fire to spare me from having to choose between Mickey Mouse and Flintstones gummy vitamins. Since I was, quite unfortunately, still alive, I took it that God couldn’t hear me over my mother’s off-key rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Or maybe he just didn’t bother noticing the pitiful lives of Flashburn inhabitants at all.
     Once we made it inside CVS, my mother always played this super annoying game of Find the Most Lame Thing and Force It on Reggie. She used to do this to my brother, Frankie, when she took him clothes shopping. Which probably explains why he turned out to be a sweater-vest-wearing, pleated-pants-enthusiast youth pastor five hundred miles away.
     “Regina, look at this little notebook,” she exclaimed right on cue, lifting up a composition journal with a cartoon duck on the front. “This would be perfect for you to journal in.”
     I rolled my eyes. “Great idea, Karen. I’ll write about how much I hate baby ducks inside a baby duck. It’ll be one giant eff you to ducks everywhere.”
     “Don’t call me Karen,” she scolded. “You know I don’t like that. And don’t insinuate curse words.”
     “Fine. I’ll just say it outright next time.”
     She adjusted her cat-eye glasses and sighed. “I just thought it would be nice for you to have a journal so you can start writing your feelings down like Dr. Rachelle advised.”
     “What would be nice is if you and Dr. Rachelle stopped forcing activities on me like there’s actually a chance in—” She raised both brows in a warning. “Hades, that I’ll enjoy it.”
     “We just want you to be happy, sweetheart.”
     There was a difference between being happy and being distracted, but I knew Karen wouldn’t understand. And picking one of our signature back-and-forths (see: screaming matches) in the middle of the school supplies aisle seemed a bit melodramatic.
     Somehow, I was able to break away from Karen with minimal objection. I was halfway through the store before she could call my name from the creams and ointment aisle, but when she did, it was something like, “Reggie, do you still have that pesky rash on your backside?”
     I didn’t respond. Needless to say, her fascination regarding the condition of my ass went unsatisfied. Set on autopilot, I ended up at the back of the store where the pharmacist was rearranging cases on a shelf. When she saw me, she smiled politely and moved to the counter.
     “I’m here for a refill,” I recited. “Reggie Mason. Zoloft.”
     She glanced at a sheet of paper. “Birthdate?”
     “January ninth.”
     “Okay, that will be ready in about eight to ten minutes if you would like to wait around. Sorry for the delay. We’ve had an influx of orders with it being allergy season.”
     “That’s all right. Thanks.”
     I’d started scanning for a place to sit when some guy practically shoved me to the side. “Excuse me, prescription refill for Prozac. Last name Eliot,” he said to the pharmacist.
     She nodded, marking the paper. “Birthdate?”
     “December twelfth.”
     “That will be ten minutes if you would like to wait.”
     He turned and caught a glimpse of my vengeful stare. Brown hair hung loosely in front of his eyes, toppling over his ears. He had this stupid, diamond-shaped tattoo on the left side of his neck that looked like it was done by one of those wannabe tattoo artists who work from their garage and use bum needles that give people bacterial infections. His grungy THE RENEGADE DYSTOPIA band T-shirt crept out from behind his acid-washed jacket.
     “That band sucks,” I mumbled just as he was about to walk away.
     He stopped directly in front of me. “Interesting observation,” he responded; his raspy voice sounded like he was recovering from a nasty cold. “I find that their irreverence toward the norms of modern age grunge culture is kind of their appeal.”
     “Maybe to people who are so desperate to be original that they’re actually more banal than everyone else.”
     He glanced down at the shirt with the stupid band. “You’re right,” he said, sliding his arms out of the jacket.
     “What are you doing?”
     He lifted the shirt over his head, exposing a white T-shirt underneath it. “The band is shit. I mean, they sing the same lyric eight times in a row and call it a song. It’s pathetic.”
     “Then why were you wearing the shirt?”
     “I guess to send a message.”
     “The message being?”
     “I like shit music and need a pretentiously opinionated emo girl leaning against a rack of laxatives to help me with my taste.”
     Dulcolax (see: terrible first impression) caught my eye the second I dared take a look behind my head. “Your taste in music should be the least of your worries,” I said, crossing my arms across my black sweater as if to declare the laxative display my territory. At least it wasn’t feminine products. That could have gotten awkward. “Prozac is the worst antidepressant on the market. I couldn’t fall asleep for days when I was on it.”
     “Don’t forget the dizziness,” he added. “I tripped in the shower and about busted my head on the toilet. They don’t show you that on the commercials.”
     “Nope. Not unless the sun was beaming through your window or you were on a bike.”
     “Man,” he said, snapping his fingers. “The one time I don’t ride a bike in the shower.”
     He was staring at me with a weirdly attractive grin on his face, and I felt like telling him to screw off. But there was a slight anger in his snarled mouth, like he disdained convention and flirty conversations and was only still talking to me because I looked ridiculous with MiraLAX poking up from behind my head.
     “So, what are you on?” he asked.
     “Clinical? Obsessive? Panic?”
     “Me too. Another thing we have in common.”
     “We suck at life?”
     “No. We aren’t ignorant.”
     “That’s debatable.”
     “Not really.” He reached into his pocket and whipped out a strand of red licorice. “Twizzler?” I shook my head. “You see, stupid people are happy with knowing nothing. The less they know, the better things seem. But smart people, geniuses, we see everything exactly for what it is. And then we take pills to make us stupid, because stupid is happy. Whatever the hell that is.”
     “And which do you prefer, stranger?” I asked.
     “My name’s Snake.”
     That was the most obscenely ambitious nickname I’d ever heard.
     “Like the reptile. Yours?”
     “That’s a dude’s name.”
     “That’s a misogynistic assertion.”
     “Fine.” He grinned, narrowing his eyes. “It’s unisex. And what do you mean, which do I prefer?”
     “Being smart or being happy?”
     A muffled voice echoed across the store. “Pickup for Regina Mason.”
     “Regina?” Snake mocked. “What a prissy little name.”
     “At least I’m not named after a slimy predator that sucks the life out of everyone it comes in contact with.” I pushed past him and snatched the folded bag from the pickup basket. I zipped the medication into my messenger bag and tossed exact change onto the counter.
     “Leaving so soon?” Snake asked. Now that he was standing directly under the light, I could see the way his eyes were burrowed deep into his skull. How his full lips had a perfect model pout, like his whole mouth had gotten stuck on the kissy-face setting. His pretty face was too posh for his image.
     “As fascinating as this conversation’s been, I’ve got to get home and eat dinner.”
     “You should invite me over.”
     “A dude named Snake with a pierced ear, a crap tattoo, and a fixation on violent screamo music? Yeah, not gonna happen.”
     He shook his head as he ate another Twizzler. “Are you this mean to everyone you meet?”
     “Only the special people,” I muttered.
     As I was preparing to leave, he grabbed my arm. I was one security camera away from clocking him.
     “I’ll see you around?” he asked, his tone strangely earnest.
     I yanked my arm out of his grasp. Even though he was determined and forceful and weird, at least he wasn’t annoyingly exuberant. I had to give him brownie points for that.
     “I’m not really around,” I said as I walked away.
     My mother was waiting for me at the front doors with a bag in her hand. “I bought you anti-itch ointment just in case your fanny chafes again.” She smiled, proudly holding up a thin white tube. “And I picked you up a journal just in case you change your mind.”
     “It better not have ducks.”
     “Duck-free. Promise.”
     She proceeded to babble on about birthday cards and half-price two-liters and a bunch of other irrelevant things I didn’t care about. We got in the minivan and rode away, listening to some girl group singing a ballad about the joy of the Lord.

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Definitions of Indefinable Things 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KittyKat4 More than 1 year ago
*This book was received via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review* This was a really interesting take on love, high school, depression and teenage pregnancy. The writing itself was good but the main character Reggie was the highlight of the book. Reggie's sarcasm and snark is initially quite abrupt but as the book unfolds and her story is revealed the reader comes to understand how the past has shaped who she is now. I also liked that the imperfectness of not only the people but also the relationships in this book as it is not only refreshing but is a more realistic depiction. Overall, this was an enjoyable book with a refreshing plot and characters.
AmberK1120 More than 1 year ago
Thanks to the #kidlitexchange network for the free review copy of the book - all opinions are my own. I initially fell in love with this book within the first few pages because of Reggie’s snark. She was speaking my language. As the story progressed, we learned more about that snark; where it came from and why she used it to speak to everyone around her. And that’s when I fell in love with more than just the snark. This is one of those books that I think will resonate with readers who feel they aren’t understood, or aren’t being heard the way they want and need to be heard. I think it will also resonate with anyone who’s faced a struggle. And it will resonate with readers who like solid characters with distinct personalities and sharp, witty tongues. There’s so much to love about this book. It breaks your heart, then puts it back together again. It’s definitely found a home on my favorites shelf. Highly recommend.
NovelKnight More than 1 year ago
I’m not sure I was the right person to read this book. That sounds awkward, I know, considering I did read it and now I’m writing a review for it. I’ve never read a book that portrayed depression in any way like Definitions of Indefinable Things and so my view on this topic and this book is likely skewed in that regard. I want to be upfront about this as I don’t claim any knowledge on depression or other mental health topics in general. Unfortunately this book wasn’t really working for me. For one, while I’m beginning to read contemporary stories more often and finding more I enjoy, I can’t add this to those numbers. From the first chapter, I was a bit put off by Reggie’s character and the book continues in her head for full duration. I found her voice simply unlikable and to read an entire book without a break from it was a bit too much for me. Had it not been for the singular character view throughout this book, I think I likely would have finished it sooner. Reggie came off as pretty obnoxious more often than not. And in the way that I grew to dislike her. Regardless of the events of the book, I don’t think her constant negative attitude in the way it was portrayed was really called for nor realistic. Though I can’t speak from personal experience, I have known friends with depression and could not match this behavior with any of theirs (however, I also understand each person has their own experience). I think that this book addresses depression in a way that wasn’t what I was expecting (but in a good way). I hoped it wouldn’t follow the line of love being a cure-all for depression because that’s not how life works. And Definitions doesn’t do that which I think is one of its stronger points. Plus the writing is different from any other contemporary novels I’ve read, making it a standout for that as well. Though I can’t say I was really a fan of the underlined words with the snide comments following. It just…jolted me out of the story and they were frequent enough to become annoying. In all honesty, this was not a good fit of a book for me. I was hoping for something more in line with books like The Upside of Unrequited and this didn’t quite meet those same expectations for me. I think there was a lot of work put into this book and that there are readers out there much better suited to it than I, so while I can’t personally recommend it I wouldn’t let this review stop you from reading it should it sound interesting.
TheThoughtSpot More than 1 year ago
I voluntarily read an ARC of this book! Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read and review Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor! A young adult story that encompasses many teen issues, is therapeutic while being told and sticks with the reader for days afterward. Reggie, Snake and Carla share their take on depression, relationships and teen pregnancy . I plan on purchasing this book for the library I work at because the teenagers will love it with it's sarcasm, humor, struggles and dysfunctional relationships telling the story. 5 stars!
Myndia More than 1 year ago
Two teenagers who suffer from depression find some of what they need in each other. Lately, I’ve been drawn to stories about depression, anxiety, mental illness in general, and particularly those in the YA genre. I suspect we all find ourselves drawn to fictional accounts that jive a little with our own lives, and that is definitely the case here. And I suspect that I’ve been leaning towards YA for stories surrounding mental illness because they so often take a softer approach, and I’m not in a place where I feel comfortable getting “hit hard”, if that makes sense. Well, I’ll tell you that if that is what you really want, that is definitely what you’ll get here: a YA novel that is built on two teenagers battling their own forms of depression, that is written with a soft approach. Emotionally, I didn’t feel much. Their individual experiences with depression were realistic, to the degree that anything real was shared. Ultimately, I think it could easily have gone deeper, and I would have been more satisfied. The characters were interesting, as was the plot itself, and the writing was perfectly adequate. But I wanted more. While Reggie was well fleshed out, and I really liked her (even if she was sometimes a bit tiring), so why didn’t I feel anything? I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, but if a character is in pain, as a reader I expect to feel connected to that pain, and I just didn’t. Ultimately, I never felt like I had any skin in the game, and that was disappointing. But, it’s a perfectly adequate book, a worthwhile story, good character development. I just expected something different than what I got. Note: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I pride myself on writing fair and honest reviews.
etoile1996 More than 1 year ago
whitney taylor's debut, definitions of indefinable things, is a deep dive into what it means to struggle with depression. not only that, but it also attempts to show us that depression isn't a one-size-fits-all kind of thing, it strikes different people in different ways, even if sometimes the symptoms are similar. reggie mason is a depression expert seeing as how she has it, and when she meets fellow depressive pill popper, snake (real name: matthew) who uses their diagnoses as a pick-up line she's not having it. she's already tried the relationship thing once and ended up more depressed than ever so she's not looking for someone else to care about. except snake (you guys, i hate this name) is kind of hard to ignore. and he's trying so hard. he takes reggie on an anti-date (see: a good date disguised as a terrible one) and he does all the right things and just when reggie thinks maybe he's worth taking a chance on she realizes that he's her former co-worker's baby daddy and possible current boyfriend (see: not boyfriend material). how whitney navigates her feelings for snake (ugh) and carla and their situation, as well as her relationship with her family (especially her mom) and her depression is the bulk of the novel. and because feelings are messy and depression is messy and relationships are messy and the main characters are young adults things get messy and hard and handled poorly. and for a while, i was worried that this was going to be a depressing story about depression like all the bright places. but thankfully the messaging here is not as bleak. yes, depression is difficult and all-consuming, but there is hope. knowing your triggers. knowing yourself. talking things through. owning your feelings. all those things help. in the end, there are no easy answers (see: life is messy), but it is possible to hope that things get better. and that's a perfectly good place to reach. **definitions of indefinable things will publish on april 4, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/houghton mifflin harcourt children's book group (hmh books for young readers) in exchange for my honest review.
book_junkee More than 1 year ago
I think 3 stars might be too high, but I really don't know how I feel about this book. There were a lot of things I didn't care for. I pretty much loathed Reggie. I did not like being in her head at all. I hated the underlined words, followed by a (see: {enter fake snark here}) that constantly happened. The take on depression was intriguing and entirely different than any other portrayal I've read. I don't know if that's good or bad. There were some sweet moments and some great pieces of banter. I was amused the dynamic of Carla and Reggie. I really liked Snake and I'm pretty sure he was the only reason I kept reading. I was taking to a friend about this and she said the word pretentious and that's a perfect description. Everything about this book comes across as pretentious and that made me struggle with it. However, there was something compelling me to finish, but I have no idea what that was. And even the ending left me feeling like it wasn't quite enough. Overall, I might have more concrete feelings if I did a reread, but I don't have any sort of ambition or want to do that. I know this review is weird, but so is the aftermath of finishing. **Huge thanks to HMH for providing the book free of charge**
MsReaderCP More than 1 year ago
Some people may be put off by this book because it's not one of the many fairytale rewrites so common and instead is a very realistic look at depression. However for those who take the time, they will find that Taylor has done a very good job of interjecting just the right amount of humor into the book and touches the reader with her honesty and openness in discussing depression. Two of the three main characters in this book have depression. (See plot summary above.) This is a great plot point because we get to see how different and similar depression can be in different people. The author doesn't gloss over the mental illness; she gives us fully rounded characters showing us how the mental illness affects their actions and relationships with others. One of the MC's, Reggie, finds herself in a seemingly impossible situation. We see her struggle with assignments her counselor gives her such as, "What does loneliness mean to you?" and "What does crazy mean to you?" However, it is the words that Reggie struggles with on her own throughout the book that result in some very meaningful passages. It is beautiful to see her struggle with words such as friends and love. Reggie seems to believe her definitions of these very difficult words will help her decide the right thing to do in her very difficult situation. My favorite thing about this book, and what moved it from 3 stars to four stars, is the excellent dialogue. I can't remember the last book where I have enjoyed dialogue so much. Reggie exudes snarkiness and sarcasm to protect herself from making any real attachments. Snake lives off self-deprecating humor. Although he seems to have everything, he is not happy with himself and likes being put down. Add hormones and teenage angst and the dialog is surprisingly witty. But can two people with depression make a go of it? (And don't forget to add Snakes newborn baby, and the baby's mother to the mix!) Thank you to NetGalley and Publisher for a copy of this book!