EVERY EXQUISITE THING by Matthew Quick

Every Exquisite Thing is about a teenage girl whose teacher gives her a book – and how her obsession with that book, and the ideas inside it, drastically change her life.

Like all Matthew Quick novels, it’s a story about figuring out your head space, about determining who you are and making peace with it. The man knows what it is to be human – and that’s a glorious, horrible mess of experiences and horrors and monotony and expectations and hopefully some really nice moments where you have an epiphany or two.

I thought this book was going to be a romance – and it was, kind of – but it was more about growing up. About that strange realization that adults are just people too. The disappointment of realizing no one knows! No one knows!!! There are no answers and life is pretty hard. But it’s also kind of exciting and you just keep moving through it and try to be as authentic to your true nature as you can while allowing yourself to change as well.

I must add that I especially liked that the young people found the author of the book that had impacted them so deeply – tracked him down and befriended him. It was interesting that it was so distressing to the author – to have people react so often with such zeal to his lone book (a reference to Catcher in the Rye? A nod, at least) and how frustrating it was to be constantly accountable for it… and yet how wonderful it was too, being rediscovered again and again by readers. Creating a bridge between generations through a shared story. Very thought provoking.

Matthew Quick was once a high school teacher – and I respect how well he represents adult interactions with kids. How the various roles assigned to adults allow them to behave around kids (therapist, parent, friend, teacher, mentor) and how kids interpret this behavior.

I also like books that remind me how obsessive I was as a teenager – especially with books. I’m still pretty obsessive over some things but it’s rare that I fall in love so completely with something now. When I was teenager, I read Tom Robbins books over and over and over again. Those were the people that I wanted to meet – wanted to hang out with – wanted to hypnotize chickens with and fall in love with and bomb peace rallies with. I wrote poems all night long and considered myself a genius for having discovered Rumi and Charles Bukowski and Anne Sexton like every other poetry loving goober did. It was alarming how FULL I felt with it all – how it captivated me and stayed in my head for days and days. That’s something I think of every once in a while, when I see a kid scribbling poetry in a sketch book or checking out the same book three or four times in one year. And it’s something that is perfectly illustrated in this funny, wonderful, sad and simply amazing book by Matthew Quick.

Another winner from one of my favorite authors. Some of it felt a little too “nonconformists are cool – group think is terrible” which felt a little harsh, considering high school (and so much of life) demands conformity. Every once in a while, I felt a little sorry for the popular kids and the bullies and the pretty boys who were the antagonists of this story because the author was so hard on them. They’re just kids too, after all, fumbling around and trying to figure the world out and their place in it. Not that I recommend bullying or indiscriminate blow jobs, but I thought this was the only flaw in an otherwise great story. There’s a great scene at the end of the book – which I would love to further discuss with anyone who reads this book – involving the two girls arguing… so get back with me if you pick this one up. It’s a winner for book clubs! So many thoughts and areas to discuss and explore…

RATING: FOUR STARS

Title: Every Exquisite Thing
Author: Matthew Quick
Originally published: May 10, 2016
Genres: Fiction, Bildungsroman

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