Book Review: how it ends

400000000000000169273_s4how it ends

Laura Wiess

I’ll admit it—I’m not generally a huge reader of YA fiction.  I have no conclusive reason why; I just rarely seek out YA fiction.  So when I got the chance to review Laura Wiess’ book how it ends, I thought what the heck, I’ll branch out a bit.  Maybe I was afraid that YA fiction didn’t contain as much substance.  That, my friends, is a blatant misrepresentation, at least in the case of how it ends.  I found myself really connecting with the characters, especially Hanna.  She is in the midst of her adolescent years and trying her best to stay grounded, which isn’t easy at that age.  She thinks she has met the boy of her dreams when it comes to Seth, and older boy at her school who has a too cool attitude and likes to move from girl to girl.  Hanna believes she has found true love and despite the fact that there are glaring negatives in her relationship, she believes that every relationship involves obstacles that need to be faced.

I can remember my teenage years clearly and something about Hanna’s position resonated with me.  It’s so hard at that age, or any age I guess, so be objective and look at situations with an outsiders perspective.  Many teenage girls have the idea that love is like something out of a fairy tale, and Hanna is no different.  And although she becomes aware of the fact that her relationship with Seth is nothing like what she anticipated, she continues to make excuses for him for some time.  I suppose trial and error is the best way for a teenager to learn, and certainly my decisions as a teenager eventually led to some self realization that helped me in the long run.  The same occurred with Hanna.

Meanwhile, there is another narrator in how it ends—Helen, the elderly woman who lives by Hanna and has formed a special bond with Hanna, to the point that Hanna calls her Grandma.  The reader becomes aware early on that there is much about Helen that Hanna doesn’t know about.  Helen has spent years attempting to protect Hanna and, in doing so, she has changed much of her background to conform to what she thinks is acceptable to a young girl who still believes in fairy tales.  Unfortunately, Helen becomes sicker and sicker as the novel progresses, until she is almost completely incapacitated.  Because she knows what is coming, and the fact that she has little time left to tell Hanna her true story, Helen writes down her life story and has it self-published as an audio book.  Hanna begins caring for Helen every day while Helen’s husband, Lon is working, and it is during this time that Hanna and Helen listen to the audio tape, as Helen’s unbelievable and horrifying past is brought to life.  Hanna is consumed by the story, but is unwilling to consciously admit that the story she is hearing is Helen’s.

Meanwhile, Helen is becoming more ill with each passing day.  She and Lon had made a pact that they would never commit either one to an assisted living facility, so Lon continues to laurawiess0509ekeep Helen in the home regardless of the fact that he is no longer able to care for her.  Helen is also resistant when it comes to visiting a doctor—both of these issues make sense once Helen’s story is told.  It becomes interesting as you hear her story within a story—the audio tape is transcribed so that we, as readers of how it ends, know exactly what it is that Helen and Hanna are listening to.

What stuck with me the most was the idea that true love is not perfect and never can be.  Helen and Lon’s life took such twists and turns, but it is the ending that really drives this idea home.  I refuse to spoil it for anyone, although I would love nothing more than to post about it so I can share my thoughts.  I just loved having the realization that true love is fragmented and does have its blisters and cracks, but that doesn’t make it less meaningful.  It gave me a real appreciation for my loved ones.

So as you can see, I am now a convert to YA fiction.  I would never have guessed that one of the most meaningful books I’d read in awhile would be YA.


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