By Lisa Jenn Bigelow
Available now from Amazon Children's
2013 Rainbow List Top Ten
Lisa Jenn Bigelow's debut is the story of Colby Bingham, an independent senior high school student struggling to connect to her family, friends, and girlfriends. She's still reeling from the death of her mother, two years ago, and doesn't feel like she can talk to her father, a trucker who is rarely home.
She has people in her life who would love to help her. There's her best friend, Van, who is practically her brother. The teacher in charge of the school's GSA often tries to check in with her. When she takes in a stray, the local vet takes Colby under her wing. But Colby can't seem to keep herself from pushing her people away instead of just letting them care for her.
STARTING FROM HERE is the type of story that can easily get frustrating. But Bigelow writes Colby with a great deal of empathy. You can see what she's thinking and why. Colby's decisions are reasonable from her point of view, even when they're remarkably stupid decisions. And honestly, what teenager hasn't made stupid decisions, especially in the absence of adult supervision.
The romance is integral to the story, but those just looking for romance might be disappointed in STARTING FROM HERE. The book begins with Colby's closeted girlfriend Rachel dumping her - and immediately palling around school with her new boyfriend. Colby's hurt, insulted, and unfortunately still in love. When she meets someone new who is definitely interested, she's not sure if she's ready for another relationship - particularly since her crush isn't out to her (religious) parents. Of course, Colby may be out and proud and school but she's not out to her father either.
I really enjoyed STARTING FROM HERE. It's a fantastic contemporary that delves deep into the life of its protagonist. It deals with grief and heartbreak, but it's ultimately optimistic - if you can't tell from the title. It tackles complicated issues in complicated ways, and throws in a sweet three-legged dog for good measure. I suspect it will appeal to fans of Laurie Halse Anderson.