All Hanna's wanted since sophomore year is Seth. She's gone out with other guys, even gained a rep for being a flirt, all the while hoping cool, guitar-playing Seth will choose her. Then she gets him -- but their relationship is hurtful, stormy and critical, not at all what Hanna thinks a perfect love should be. Bewildered by Seth's treatment of her and in need of understanding, Hanna decides to fulfill her school's community service requirement by spending time with Helen, her terminally ill neighbor, who she's turned to for comfort and wisdom throughout her life. But illness has changed Helen into someone Hanna hardly knows, and her home is not the refuge it once was. Feeling more alone than ever, Hanna gets drawn into an audiobook the older woman is listening to, a fierce, unsettling love story of passion, sacrifice, and devotion. Hanna's fascinated by the idea that such all-encompassing love can truly exist, and without her even realizing it, the story begins to change her. Until the day when the story becomes all too real...and Hanna's world is spun off its axis by its shattering, irrevocable conclusion.
Hanna was a cheerful & curious little girl. When her parents began having issues, she would go spend time with her neighbor Helen. Over the years, their bond grew into that of a grandmother and her grandaughter. As Hanna reached her adolescent years, her interests began changing and they particularly involved Seth...her highschool love! She knew that Seth was far from perfect; he liked to get high and could be a real jerk at times. However, she had faith in him and faith in love. She still hoped that she would find her "happily ever after" with him. Unfortunately, their relationship didn't cure him of his faults and while Hanna remained focused on having a life of her own (with Seth of course), Helen was left missing her and the special times they had spent together.
Helen's home used to be a place of refuge for Hanna. She would always turn to her for comfort and advice, but when Helen became ill, her home no longer provided the comfort that Hanna had come to rely on. As part of her community service requirement, Hanna would visit her and she'd play one of Helen's audiobooks for her. The story they listened to was very unsettling and left Hanna with many questions. Questions that made her reflect back on her own life & relationships and what's worse, the shocking conclusion rattled her beyond expectation.
How It Ends, is a unique coming-of-age tale that explores some of the most fundamental human bonds and experiences. The book began with a two-part narrative: Hanna and Helen. It allowed the reader to understand what these two ladies were experiencing at different moments of their lives - that is until Helen lost her ability to speak because of her disease. Instead, the gaps were filled with "How It Ends" the audio book (clever huh?) and I thought Wiess did an excellent job weaving the stories together. With Hanna's character, she really captured the essence of being a teenger; rebellious, irrational and stubborn to a fault. With Helen, you felt great empathy for someone who became trapped in her own body with no way out.
This book had a little bit of everything: humor, angst, mystery, fear, shock, and most importantly love in all it's shapes & sizes. Wiess, in one book, touched on so many aspects of life from various types of relationships to disease and the eventual shut down of the body. For me, it marked her as an excellent writer because she did it so seamlessly.
I can't say that this book has a happy or sad ending...it's really a bit of both! I would not recommend this book for someone who's looking for an immediately meaningful story or a fun, light read. However, I would recommend it for a book club, discussion group or just someone looking for an intense & touching story. By the end, it had me on the brink of tears and I could only sit there and ponder it before going to bed. It was a truly fascinating book and the more I think back on it, the more I like it :)
I give this book