At Winton School, Gabriella “Gabby” Gardiner is a toad among the offspring of the wealthy and influential. Her family isn’t rich (although they desperately want to be), and the BMW in Gabby’s driveway, as well as the designer clothes her mother religiously wears, are all flimsy attempts to mask her family’s utter regularity.
That all changes, however, when Gabby’s mom gives her a massive makeover over the summer–transforming regular old Gabby into a tanned, slim blonde that even Billy Nash (resident bad boy and Gabby’s biggest crush) can’t help but notice. They start dating and Gabby’s life is perfect.
Well, at least until she gets drunk out of her mind at a party, steals Billy’s car, and crashes it into a tree.
Where it Began by Ann Redisch Stampler details Gabby’s struggle to remember what happened the night of her near-fatal crash. She wakes up in a field, alone, next to the shattered remains of Billy’s midnight blue BMW with no recollection of how she got there. After spending weeks recovering in the hospital, she is finally sent home without a single memory of that day, though Billy and Billy’s mom, Agnes, advise her to get a lawyer–and fast. Meanwhile, Gabby begins to realize that her relationship with Billy is not at all what her rose-colored glasses led her to believe.
Although the tropes in this book make it somewhat predictable, it’s the writing itself that makes the novel weak and sluggish. There are a lot of run-ons (one paragraph of 94 words was entirely one sentence!) as well as questionable phrases like “cliché mountain,” “suckdom,” and “slutmuffins.” To me the narrative sounds forced, as if the author isn’t quite familiar with the way teenagers speak, but thinks she is. Gabby’s rambling run-ons are difficult to understand, and I often had to read the same paragraph over and over in order to find where one thought stopped and another started.
Another problem is that Gabby isn’t very likeable. From the beginning, the author paints a picture of a superficial girl who’s trying too hard to be accepted. And after her accident, that same superficial, desperate girl remains. She starts drinking and smoking and wearing super tight clothes just so Billy will notice her, and then one day she allegedly gets so drunk that she takes his car and wraps it around a tree. You’d think this horrible accident she can’t remember would teach her something and make her a better person, but no; she’s just as superficial and obsessed with Billy as she was before.
The best part of the novel is the climax, which is well done in its simplicity. The ending added some much needed depth and independence to Gabby’s character, but overall Where it Began is a sluggish novel. It lacks the description and purpose it needs to give it life.
Sydnee is a freshman at Wayne State University pursuing a degree in Journalism. She is obsessed with hunky heroes, explosions, melodrama, and magic—all things that make a frequent appearance in her stories. Her blog is http://syd-dreams.blogspot.com. Find her on Figment at http://figment.com/users/62-Sydnee-Thompson.