Ages 14 and up / YA fiction / Simon Pulse
Win a set of WHERE IT BEGAN by Ann Stampler for your book club. Enter to win by emailing the author (write "KidsBookclubbing" in the subject line)
One winter afternoon, I had a long conversation with a smart, sweet, beautiful, talented jewel of a girl who couldn't see herself. All she saw was a not-bright-enough, not-pretty-enough, not-popular-enough mess.
I was surrounded by wonderful girls who seemed to believe that, unless they met an impossible standard of perfection, they were sub-regular.
How do you live with that? How do you feel good about yourself when good-enough seems unattainable?
If you're Gabby Gardiner, you go along with an over-the-top makeover by your mom and do anything to hang onto Billy Nash, the boy who finally notices you. (Even when your photo shows up next to "love is blind" in the dictionary of broken hearts.)
Where It Began is for every girl who ever gave up the smallest piece of herself because she wanted to fit in, or be popular, or keep a boyfriend, or win her parents' approval... or just to feel okay.
Gabby must find the courage to break free from everybody else's expectations before she can discover what she wants for herself.
But first, she has to figure out how she ended up on the ground next to Billy's mangled car, half-drunk, car keys in hand. She has to find the courage to face reality when nothing in her life is as it seems, and when the people she's trusted the most may be the ones who've betrayed her the deepest.
I hope you'll laugh with Gabby, cry with her, itch to shake her, and cheer when she finally begins to get it. I hope you'll forgive her for not being perfect for one single second of the book.
-Jenny Han, the best-selling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty
"A terrific read! Ann Stampler puts you in Gabby's head and keeps you there until the gripping conclusion. A writer to watch!"
-Alex Flinn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Beastly
"Stampler's story of a girl's obsession with a guy at the expense of all else is powerful, and Gabby's alcohol problem, her devotion to Billy, and her overall denial are entirely believable. Gabby's sardonic voice will draw readers into the story immediately, as Stampler delivers a searing portrayal of power, privilege, and betrayal in the hills above Los Angeles."
1. One of the first things we learn about Gabby is that she underwent a complete physical makeover just prior to the time the story begins. What emotional changes did Gabby experience in the process? In what ways did the makeover benefit her? In what ways did it harm her?
2. Every family has its own unique culture and values. How do you think Gabby's family shaped her? What about Billy's family? How were Lisa, Anita, and Huey affected by their families having different religious beliefs, culture and ethnicity, or ethical values than the majority at their school?
3. We learn Gabby's story entirely from her point of view. What do you think of Gabby as a narrator? Is she reliable? Were there points in the book where you felt you knew or understood more than she did?
4. How do you feel about the story's ending? Was justice served? Would you have handled things in a different way than Gabby?
To read the first three chapters, watch a trailer, and learn more about the author, visit her website.
CALL-IN INFORMATION: Ann Stampler is available to talk with book groups via Skype or telephone. Email the author to arrange a meeting.