Ann Redisch Stampler’s debut novel Where It Began is about a girl named Gabby Gardiner who is pulled from a horrific car crash and has no memory of what happened or what caused the crash. Where It Began shows what happened before the crash, the aftermath, and Gabby’s eventual discovery of the truth.
Gabby Gardiner is not an immensely likable character. See, she has this overwhelming desire to be popular and so she gets a makeover and catches the eye of Billy Nash, a wealthy golden boy. Other than Gabby’s obsession with keeping Billy as her boyfriend and being good at ceramics, Gabby has no definable characteristics. This was likely done on purpose to show Gabby’s state of mind. Yet is is grating because it is pretty obvious that Billy Nash is bad news, especially in the very beginning of Where It Began as he is missing from Gabby’s hospital room.
Much of Where It Began revolves around Gabby piecing together what happened after the accident, which is a bit similar to Forget You by Jennifer Echols but not as romantic. I did find the unraveling of the chain of events that lead to the accident to be quite compelling as well as reading about how Gabby tries to game the system on Billy’s instructions. The plot moves along at a good pace and Stampler’s voicing of Gabby reads as authentic.
Yet, there was a strong disconnect with the characters of Where It Began. It’s hard to care about Gabby because she’s so obsessed with her boyfriend. Seriously, she’s kind of boring because all she ever seems to talk or think about is Billy Nash, who is not that great. And as a reader, to see her fall all over herself for someone who isn’t that wonderful, I just sort of became numb to the book.
Where It Began definitely will have an audience with teen readers and contemporary young adult fans. It is well-written and has an interesting plot. Yet, the characters fell short for this reader. So, if you are more of a plot person than a character person, you will probably really enjoy Where It Began.
Disclosure: Received for review via Vine.