This young adult story differs from most in that, although the protagonist and narrator, Paige Hancock, is 16 and a junior in high school, she is pretty naïve about boys, still attached to her “Grammy,” and pretty much of a “goody goody.” She had a boyfriend for two months a year before, but he died in a freak swimming accident, and ever since then, she has been known in high school as “Paige Hancock, The Girl Whose Boyfriend Drowned.” She has avoided most school activities because she can’t stand getting “That Look” of pity. She used to swim a lot herself, but is now afraid, and has recurrent nightmares of drowning. And she feels guilty when she enjoys herself at anything.
Knowing that she has to get over this, and inspired by advice from her grandmother, Paige makes a list of goals for the year, and sets out to accomplish them:
Date (Ryan Chase)
She calls the list “How to Begin Again.”
As part of the plan, she joins the “QuizBowl” team, because she knows a lot of trivia about popular culture. The captain of the team happens to be Max Watson, the cousin of Ryan Chase, Paige’s “ultimate, since-middle-school pipe dream of a crush.”
Predictably enough, as Paige and her BFFs begin to hang around with Max and his BFFs (which include Ryan), Paige finds that Max is more her type than Ryan:
“Ryan Chase was my eighth-grade collage, aspirational and wide-eyed. But Max was the first bite of grilled cheese on a snowy day, the easy fit of my favorite jeans, that one old song that made it onto every playlist. . . . Not glamorous or idealized or complicated. Just me.”
But Paige runs into a couple of significant barriers: one is that she is afraid to get close to anyone ever again, because of the fear of loss. The second is that Max happened to see her planner, and concluded she just hung out with him to get to know Ryan. Hurt, he withdraws from her life.
Evaluation: In spite of there being no surprises in the story arc, this is a sweet coming-of-age book that focuses on the importance of family and friendship in a way many YA books do not. I also liked the way that although Ryan may be cute and a sports star, he’s a nice guy. Nevertheless, Paige prefers “nerdy” Max, who may not be as good looking, but he’s pretty amazing as a person.
Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books, a member of Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015