Every Exquisite Thing is a powerful and heartfelt novel about adolescence, and the perpetual journey of self-discovery. Nanette O’Hare is a teenager who been pigeon-holed into her role as dutiful daughter, industrious student, and soccer star. She has immersed herself into the life that has been moulder for her, rather than allowed the freedom to find her own path. She’s simply caught in a slipstream; going with the flow.
But when her favourite teacher gifts her a worn, battered copy of the out-of-print cult classic novel The Bubblegum Reaper, Nanette’s life skews wildly. First she befriends the reclusive author of her now-favourite novel; then she falls in love with a troubled young poet with a twisted perspective of justice; and as she begins rebelling against her life’s ‘regular scheduled programming’ and attempts to recalibrate her life according to her own desires rather than everybody else’s, she realises just how difficult it to be comfortable in your own skin, and be true to who you are, in a world that habitually rejects personalities outside its inhibitive definition of ‘normal.’
The beauty – and sadness – of Every Exquisite Thing is its trueness to the blight of adolescents everywhere. All of us, at one point or another, and even as we’ve moved beyond our teenage years into adulthood, have struggled with the shackles placed upon us by our family or friends, or society in general. How many of us persisted with something because it has been expected of us? Or because weassumed something was expected of us? And who’s to say those ‘shackles’ were wrong? Untethered, would we have made better choices? Who’s to know? The point is, we can either conform or rebel, and neither option guarantees success or failure. We’re all on a journey, and we just have to hope we have smiles on our faces at the end of it. Life is a serious of choices, but as an adolescent, those decisions can seem unfathomable.
Every Exquisite Thing is a true-to-life tale that impresses thanks to its authentic characters. Matthew Quick’s always had that uncanny knack of perfectly encapsulating the teenage psyche and detailing their struggles. This isn’t necessarily an innovative take on a traditional narrative, but it’s emotionally true, and is ripe with enough humour and a likable cast to propel it above its competition.