How It Ends

How It Ends

by Catherine Lo


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There are two sides to every story.
     It’s friends-at-first-sight for Jessie and Annie, proving the old adage that opposites attract. Shy, anxious Jessie would give anything to have Annie’s beauty and confidence. And Annie thinks Jessie has the perfect life, with her close-knit family and killer grades. They're BFFs . . . until suddenly they're not. Told through alternating points of view, How It Ends is the story of a friendship from first meeting to breakup, set against a tumultuous sophomore year of bullying, boys, and backstabbing.
     Catherine Lo makes her debut with an honest, nuanced tale about the intricacies of female friendship.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544540064
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 06/07/2016
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.10(d)
Lexile: HL720L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Inspired by her twelve years of working with at-risk teenagers as a teacher in a behavior support program, How It Ends is Catherine Lo ’s first novel. She lives in Ontario with her family.

Read an Excerpt


Here’s what I wish I could say about my summer vacation:
     Working in the city was every bit as glamorous and exciting as I anticipated. My dad and I bonded over executive lunches and spent our train rides to work gossiping about our coworkers. The awkwardness that usually colors our conversations fell away, and my dad was proud of how I blossomed in the workplace, leaving my issues behind and functioning like everyone else. Down in the mailroom, I met the kids of other lawyers, and we engaged in the types of shenanigans you would expect from a bunch of teenagers experiencing their first taste of independence. On our last day, my new friends and I exchanged tearful goodbyes and promises to keep in touch online. I left work feeling ready for the new school year, knowing that the losers who torment me at school are just unsophisticated hicks who lack the intelligence and social graces to behave like decent human beings.
     Here’s how it actually went:
     My father and I rode the train to work in silence. He read the paper or sent emails from his phone while I played Angry Birds on mine. Each morning, we parted at the front doors, where he gave me a heartfelt pep talk along the lines of Work hard and don’t embarrass me. While he headed up to his posh office, I headed down into the bowels of the building, where a bunch of overprivileged kids pretended to work. I was greeted on the first day with about all the instruction I received all summer: do whatever the suits tell you, look busy no matter what, and what happens in the mailroom stays in the mailroom.
     After that, I pretty much spent the summer walking the fine line between working hard enough to look busy but not hard enough to make my coworkers look bad. I’d finish my duties by lunchtime and then spend the afternoon hiding in a back corner of the mailroom, reading and fantasizing about how to transform myself into an Alaska Young or Margo Roth Spiegelman.
     While my dad ate fancy lunches with clients, I snuck out to buy sauerkraut-covered hot dogs, devouring them right there on the street before scurrying back to the mailroom. I don’t know where the other kids went. Most of them were the children of partners, and they looked down on me because my dad is just a regular lawyer. They moved together like a flock of birds, twittering away as they passed my desk each day at lunchtime, carefully avoiding eye contact. I’d watch them go, struggling to fill my lungs with air while the weight of loneliness settled itself on my chest.
     So basically, what I learned about the world of work is that it’s depressingly like high school. There are still cliques, everyone does the least amount of work possible to get by, and the beautiful people are in charge.
     Aren’t I a ray of sunshine?
     The thing is, I know there are people who have it worse than me. I don’t have a terminal illness, I’m not homeless or hungry, my parents are still married after a gazillion years, and I’ve never had to go through losing someone I love.
     I keep reminding myself that things could be worse, but there are shades of gray, you know?
     I do suffer from terminal loneliness, I’m so far from popular that the light from popular would take a million years to reach me, my parents fundamentally disagree about how to parent a kid like me, and I’ve never experienced love, because I’m apparently invisible to boys.
     But on to the current crisis: tomorrow is the first day of school. Tenth grade.
     I hate school. Which is ironic because everyone thinks I love it. I’m a straight-A student (booknerd) who always tops the honor roll (loser) at Sir John A. Macdonald High School (Seventh Circle of Hell) in our quaint little Southern Ontario town (hickville) in the great country of Canada (where everything is more expensive and less cool than in America).
     It’s not the idea of course work that has my stomach aching and my hands shaking. I have my fellow classmates to thank for that. Tomorrow I’ll be thrust back into the same space as Courtney Williams and her pack of wolves. Tomorrow I’ll be Lezzie Longbottom again.
     I blame Vogue magazine and Harry Potter. That’s how it all started.
     It was a Sunday in November of seventh grade, and my mom was caught in the grip of mother-daughter bonding enthusiasm. She’d bought a stack of fashion magazines in a thinly veiled attempt to make me into someone cooler, and we were sitting at the kitchen table flipping through them and brainstorming about a makeover. That’s where I found the picture of Michelle Williams and her Mia Farrow–inspired pixie cut. I was obsessed.
     It took two weeks of pleading and an hour in the stylist’s chair to remove my long brown hair. While my mom’s hairdresser worked her magic, I sat there imagining how sleek and sophisticated I’d look, and how impressed my friends Courtney and Larissa would be when they saw my daring hairdo. But when the stylist turned the chair around for the big reveal, I looked nothing like the adorably feminine Michelle Williams. I looked like a boy with a bad haircut.
     I spent that afternoon in tears, convinced I’d be the laughingstock of my school. I finally called Courtney that night, desperate for reassurance. As I tearfully explained my predicament, I heard laughter and voices in the background. “Do you have people over?”
     “I’m having a sleepover,” she announced, as my heart flopped out of my chest and onto the floor.
     “I didn’t know,” I said lamely.
     I spent Sunday tugging on my hair, willing it to grow even a little bit. I practiced styling it in front of the mirror and putting barrettes in to make it seem more feminine. But no matter what I did, I looked like a pudgy little boy. A vaguely familiar-looking pudgy little boy.
     Which is where Harry Potter comes in. On Monday our teacher went home at lunchtime with a headache, and the staff rushed around trying to find a way to occupy us. Someone found the first Harry Potter movie in the back of our supply cupboard, so we settled in to watch it.
     My humiliation became complete on the train ride to Hogwarts, when Neville Longbottom appeared onscreen. That’s when I realized who I looked like. Sadly, the rest of the class did too.
     Whispers of “Longbottom” started immediately, but it wasn’t until recess that I became Lezzie Longbottom. It was at recess that Courtney declared me a lesbian and said that I’d cried about not being invited to her sleepover because I wanted to see them all naked.
     I’ll never forget the way I burned with shame on the playground. I had nowhere to go and no one to talk to. The girls turned their backs on me and whispered about how I’d looked at them like I was interested, while the boys chanted “Lezzie” and offered me money if I kissed Courtney before recess was over.
     Even now, with hair that’s grown out to shoulder length, teeth aligned through years of orthodontia, and baby fat that’s melted away, I still see Lezzie Longbottom when I look in the mirror.
     If my mother wasn’t such a freak, I’d beg to be homeschooled. I know how well that would go over, though. Mom takes every little thing I tell her and blows it completely out of proportion. Like when I told her about how Courtney teased me after my haircut. Mom made a federal case out of it, and the principal hauled Courtney, her mom, and my parents in for mediation. What a joke. Courtney’s big blue eyes filled with tears, and she told everyone that she hadn’t meant anything by it—it was just a little teasing. The very next day, she dubbed me a snitch and spread the word that anyone who talked to me would become an outcast.
     Is it any wonder I started having panic attacks and refused to leave my room?
     When the hiding out and avoiding human contact devolved into full-on depression, my mom found her new mission in life—fixing me. She’s paraded me through countless doctors’ offices and counselors’ workshops. She buys every parenting book she can get her hands on, and has a new strategy every other day to unlock the normal kid in me. She’s tried signing me up for sports, making me join clubs, taking me for “girls’ days” so we can shop our cares away, and meditation classes to quiet our minds. She throws our digestive systems into turmoil with new diets that promise that the elimination of this or the addition of that will have wondrous effects on our mental health. The only thing she really hasn’t tried is actually talking to me about how I feel and what helps me.
     So I gave up being honest with her a long time ago. I take my Prozac every day and pretend it’s all working. I don’t tell my mom about how I spend my days hovering around the outer edges of the outcasts, pretending to be interested in comic books and video games just so I have people to sit with at lunch. I don’t tell her that I plan my route between classes painstakingly, avoiding certain hallways and coming late to the cafeteria line so I won’t run into Courtney and her friends. And I don’t tell her how lonely I am. Every. Single. Day.
     I keep reminding myself that in three years I’ll be off to university for a brand-new start, while girls like Courtney and Larissa will have the best years of their lives already behind them. There’ll be plenty of time for friendship then. For now, I just need to put my head down, focus on school, and ignore everything else.
     Three more years. I just have to survive for three more years.

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How It Ends 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
BlkosinerBookBlog More than 1 year ago
Source: earc from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via edelweiss Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC (advanced review copy). I am not paid for this review, and my opinions in this review are mine, and are not effected by the book being free. I wanted to read this one because it focuses on friendship and how things can go wrong. It sounds emotional and can hopefully give the message that you should forgive, talk things out instead of making assumptions and how you should chose friendship over hurt feelings and revenge. I really liked the sound of Jessie. She reminds me a lot of myself, book smart but shy and not the best at friendships and relationships. She felt like she was on the outside and she was picked on by some of the popular kids in middle school and that has shaped her and she's stayed on the outskirts of social things. I enjoyed the family dynamics for Jessie- she was close with them, they had a weekly standing taco and game night. Annie is beautiful and bigger than life. She is artistic and she is real. She saw that Jessie was smart and not fake, so she automatically befriended her. Jessie loved having a friend again, and they spent so much time together. Annie has a stepmother that she doesn't like and a stepsister that she feels like gets preferential treatment. Her mom passed away, and she feels like she can't talk about her anymore, and she feels such a distance between her and her dad. The anxiety in this one was betrayed pretty well I liked how it was very realistic and that Jesse really struggled with it. I deal with anxiety especially socially myself so a lot of the things that she said really resonated with me. One of the quotes really resonated with me and pretty much sums up how I feel about things at times and interactions with other people and how I view myself and them. "Jessie's social anxiety makes her see judgments from other people even when there are none... She gets fixated on all the negative things people might think about her and then she has trouble sorting out whether her fears are realistic or not." So many things went wrong in the friendship both of them made some bad decisions and went behind the others back and weren't there for him when they needed to be but I do like how everything finally came together and they were able to sort things out even if it's not exactly the same as before. Romance didn't really take center stage in this one and I liked it it was present of course but it more focused on the friendship and her anxiety and family and yes drama. Bottom Line: Look at friendship and anxiety.
COBauer More than 1 year ago
HOW IT ENDS by Catherine Lo is a brutally honest and stunning portrayal of the ups and downs of friendship (warts and all) between two very different teenage girls. I was absolutely blown away by the sophistication of Lo’s writing and her ability to tackle such an array of important issues: depression, anxiety, medication, birth control, loss, etc. I mean, WOW!!! I really connected with this novel on a deep, personal level. Let’s face it, it’s not easy being a teenage girl. But then you add on the pressures of mental health issues or being new in town—it’s a lot to bear. We’ve all been there in one way or another. The issues of depression and anxiety that Jessie dealt with really hit close to home. I felt like I was being thrown back into my past within these pages. But it was truly beautiful to watch these girls come to grips with their issues and eventually learn to love themselves, as well as each other. It’s pretty terrifying to let another person in when you have so much guilt and shame. But the ways in which your life can improve when you finally let go of that shame… Life lessons. So. Many. FEELS! Loved this book! Love this author! Can’t wait to read more from her!
HSMeloche More than 1 year ago
Everyone can relate to the ups and downs of friendship. High school friendships are even more of a roller coaster, and in many ways, more important than any other in how they form a person, help them grow, and guide them in their decisions. HOW IT ENDS is an incredibly realistic portrayal of the life cycle of a friendship. Told from the perspective of two high-school sophomores, Annie and Jessie, this book takes readers on the highs and lows of a friendship, each moment in each main character's life marked by the thoughts and presence of the other. The girls work to determine which choices are best made independently and which ones should be bounced off the other. The book delves into what secrets and personal information should be kept and what can safely be shared, and in the end, HOW IT ENDS confirms that the loyalty of a best friend can often be the only thing that gets someone through the toughest times. Author Catherine Lo uses her twelve years of working with at-risk teenagers to create a debut novel that so many can relate to.
SonyaMM More than 1 year ago
This was such an emotional read that after I finished the last page, I could not bring myself to get up and throw away all the tissues that Catherine Lo had just made me go through; I just had to sit and recover for a few minutes instead. Lo's portrayal of these two teen girls, their friendship, and all the complex emotions, insecurities, and rationalizations that lead to its breakdown, was utterly convincing and utterly compelling. I felt like I understood the choices that each girl was making, and yet I also understood how each felt completely betrayed by the other. Along with that, each one is going through separate, significant personal issues, which made me feel so much for each of them -- and which made the importance of their friendship all the more intense. Meanwhile, the cruel social games and hierarchies surrounding them made my heart ache. I'm so glad I got a chance to borrow an advance copy of this book.
MarisaR More than 1 year ago
Catherine Lo's powerful debut was pitch perfect. Told in chapters alternating between the POVs of Annie and Jessie, the story is a brutally honest portrayal of female friendships in high school. When introverted Jessie meets extroverted cooler-than-cool Annie, she thinks she has met her new best friend. But then the trials and tribulations of 10th grade begin to get in the way and backstabbing and bullying ensue. Trust crumbles. And so do friendships. With all that, the story never gets melodramatic. Instead, it peels back all the messy layers of friendship with pure honesty and an unflinching eye. I can't wait to see what Catherine Lo does next because this is an author to watch!
KathyMacMillan More than 1 year ago
Any female can tell you that friendships – especially best friendships – during adolescence can be as full of drama as any romantic relationship. And it can hurt a lot more when they implode, too. Very rarely are the nuances of female friendship so well explored as they are in HOW IT ENDS, where we see the alternating points of view of Jessie and Annie as they meet, connect, become best friends, and fall apart. I went in expecting, based on the title, that this would be chronicle of Jessie and Annie’s friendship from beginning to end; as I neared the end of the book, I was dreading the idea, because both girls were such winning characters and watching their friendship fall apart was painful. I am happy to report that the title doesn’t refer to what you think it does, and the book ends exactly as it needs to. Both Jessie and Annie have complex family lives and personalities that both drive them together and try to tear them apart. They face very real challenges – mental illness, teen pregnancy, bullying, a parent’s remarriage – but these elements never feel tacked on or heavy-handed. I admit that, as a bookish introvert, I identified far more with Jessie than with Annie. I especially appreciated the way the author explores the intricacies of girl bullying, with the character of Courtney picking on Jessie so subtly, maliciously, and chronically that Annie doesn’t even see it. This story felt both universal and extremely personal and specific – these girls aren’t anybody’s symbols, but fully realized people struggling to figure out what’s most important in life.
QuinnenDonnelly More than 1 year ago
Entering sophomore year, all Jessie wants is for it to be different--better--than last year. When new girl Annie picks Jessie as her new friend, it starts to look like this year will be those things. The girls develop a fast, intense friendship, one which is tested when Annie is also sought out by Courtney and Larissa, the girls who made junior high hell for Jessie. Told in chapters alternating between the two girls' POVs, this is a powerful and engrossing story of the complicated dynamics in a close adolescent female friendship. Both Jessie and Annie are tested by the situations that test so many of us at this age: clique allegiances, boys, step-families, pressure from parents, etc. Lo shows a deep understanding of teenagers, and crafts two totally relatable protagonists. I was compelled from the first page and see so many teenagers seeing reflections of themselves in this story.
SMParker More than 1 year ago
I loved every page. Lo is an amazing talent who has brought vivid and real characters to life in this story about friendship and trust and how much teen girls are willing to love themselves and each other. For a novel that deals with the very serious topic of bullying and self-acceptance in high school, Lo still managed to make me laugh out loud. A. Lot. Her characters are so real and loveable and raw you can’t help but root for them to find their way. Teens are going to scramble to make room for this on their bookshelves!