Matthew Quick's Every Exquisite Thing is definitely a novel about rebellion. It explores how dangerous it can be to follow the status quo. It's an anthem for the introverts, the misfits and all the people who didn't really fit in at school. But in saying that, it's also an anthem for the pretentious, for the wannabe hipsters and for the people that hid behind being different because, in all honesty, they were really no different to anyone else deep down. We're all clinging onto things that make us appear different and special and this book definitely panders to that but it just comes off a little pretentious. It's a very 'i'm not like other girls I'm different' and this really starts to grind on you after a while. Quick's writing was overly pretentious and Nanette was on the whole just a boring character. She was a little bit of a placeholder so other girls could easily insert themselves into her position.
The story unfolds through 16-year-old Nanette O'Hare's perspective, despite being a mediocre rich, suburban white girl, she believes that she is somehow special and different to everyone else. She thinks this because she likes reading Charles Bukowski, watching art house films and reading inside. I don't think Nannette or Matthew Quick realised that nowadays there is a whole subculture of rich white kids who love doing this.
Throughout the book, Nannette is asked if she thinks she's better than everyone. If I remember correctly, I think she says she's not better, but different. But that's the thing, I don't really think she is different. I think she's just as bland and hides behind all the idea of being weird to make herself feel better about how painfully mediocre she actually is. She has no interests, passions or anything and spends most of the book feeling sorry for herself. I don't really get a strong sense of character from her at all.
While usually, this book is something I'd really enjoy, I didn't like it, I might even go as far as to say I hated it. I think that maybe if I'd read this book when I was 15, I would have loved it. I think there was a point where I was like Nannette and that's why this novel irritated me so much because I could recognise myself in the way she felt about herself and the world and how annoyed it sounded. There was a bit of an air or superiority when she looked at how her classmates and her "best friend" Shannon's lives revolved around getting drunk and having sex with boys. The middle school sex scandal part was particularly interesting to me because it reminded me of what used to go on at my school. I think it successfully highlighted teen attitudes to sex and the strange teen culture around sex and drinking and shows how empty it is, or how weird it seems? At least to me anyway. However I think that maybe because It was coming from a male writer, some of the comments around sexuality didn't completely seem honest to me.
In saying all this, I think that this novel is perfect for introverted teens. It has some really strong messages and themes that would be helpful for teens in the same position as Nanette.
"Just because you're good at something doesn't mean you have to do it"
‘They can’t make me into a joiner without my permission.’
Dotted around the bullshit, there are little moments of brilliance in there. It does a great job of really showing how you don't have to conform to the masses, and being an individual is something to be celebrated not stamped out. But that message gets a little lost. Alex is a good example of how the characters are all obsessed with the ideas in the bubblegum reaper, and how they hide behind it.
Booker is somewhat of a saving grace because he highlights the importance of talking things out and community. While this novel can romanticise ostracism Booker helps show how important genuine human connections are and yes while you may pride yourself of "hating people" and being the weird girl no one likes, human relationships and extremely important. There's nothing wrong with belonging.
I think Nannette liked being an outsider mainly because she had no personality of her own. Being different was everything she was and without that, I guess she was just like everyone else. I didn't really get a strong sense of self, or character from her. She comes across as a selfish glorified hipster and that's where this novel really lost it for me.