Title: Every Exquisite Thing
Author: Matthew Quick
Publication: 2016 by Little, Brown
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Nanette O’Hare is an unassuming teen who has played the role of dutiful daughter, hard-working student, and star athlete for as long as she can remember. But when a beloved teacher gives her his worn copy of The Bubblegum Reaper—the mysterious, out-of-print cult-classic—the rebel within Nanette awakens.
As she befriends the reclusive author, falls in love with a young but troubled poet, and attempts to insert her true self into the world with wild abandon, Nanette learns the hard way that sometimes rebellion comes at a high price.
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1 — He Was an Adult and I Was Still a Kid
The last lunch period before Christmas break junior year, when I arrived at Mr. Graves’s classroom, he was full of holiday cheer and smiling much more than usual. We had been eating alone together for months. But for that day, his wife had baked me a plate of Italian pizzelle cookies, which made me wonder what Mr. Graves had been telling her about me. The cookies looked like giant snowflakes and tasted like black licorice. We each had one, and then Mr. Graves handed me a small box wrapped in blue paper dotted with the white silhouettes of reindeer equipped with enormous antlers. I had never received a present from a teacher before. It seemed significant.
“Just a little something from one cafeteria avoider to another,” he said, and smiled.
I tore into the wrapping paper.
Inside was a paperback novel called The Bubblegum Reaper, written by Nigel Booker. The cover was taped to the spine, and the pages had yellowed. It smelled like an old camping tent that had remained slightly damp for fifty years. On the white front was one of those long Grim Reaper scythes with the curved blade at the top, only it was made entirely of rainbow-colored gumballs—like someone had arranged them that way on white marble. The image was certainly weird. It both frightened and lured.
I opened the book to the first page.
The dedication read “For the archery pit.”
Bizarre, I thought.
I quickly flipped through the dog-eared pages and saw that someone had underlined hundreds of passages throughout.
“I read that book when I was your age, and it changed my life,” Mr. Graves said. “It’s out of print. Probably worth some money, but it’s just not the type of book you sell. I scanned the entire thing and made a digital file a long time ago. And I promised myself that I’d pass my copy on to the right student whenever he or she came along. It’s maybe not the most literary work in the world. Probably a bit dated. But it’s a cult classic and I have a feeling that it might be the perfect read for you. Maybe even a rite of passage for people like us. Anyway, Merry Christmas, Nanette O’Hare.”
When I gave Mr. Graves a thank-you hug, he stiffened and said, “No need for all that.” Then he laughed nervously as he gently pushed me away.
His doing that made me angry at the time, but later I sort of got why he was being cautious. He saw what was coming before I did, because he was an adult and I was still a kid.
I began reading that night.
(For Chapter 2: http://www.ew.com/article/2015/09/10/matthew-quick-every-exquisite-thing-excerpt)
About the author:
Matthew Quick (aka Q) is the New York Times bestselling author of several novels, including THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, which was made into an Oscar-winning film. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has received a PEN/Hemingway Award Honorable Mention. Q lives with his wife, novelist/pianist Alicia Bessette, on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.