Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"This Is How It Ends"

Jen Nadol grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania and graduated from American University with a BA in literature. She's lived in Washington DC, Boston, NYC and now, an old farmhouse north of the city with her husband and three sons. When she's not writing, she's probably tending to the farmhouse or the sons, reading, cooking, skiing, or sleeping.

Nadol applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, This Is How It Ends, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Hey, Loser.” Someone tapped me on the shoulder and I turned to find Matty Gretowniak leaning against the railing.

“What are you doing here?” I said, still feeling the sting of his comments about the SATs, but otherwise glad to see him. Most of the kids here were skiers or partiers or jocks. I was none of the above and neither was he, as far as I knew.

“Having a Coke. Enjoying the view. You?”

“Trolling for chicks.”

Matty laughed. “Good luck with that. I came with my sister,” he admitted. “She’s on the ski team this year.”

“Awesome,” I said. “Point her out and I’ll troll in that direction.”

“Don’t you dare.”

Trip had continued on without me and I saw him on the far side of the deck with the girls and John. “You run today?” I asked Matty.

“Are you kidding?” he said. “That course is brutal. You ever done it?”

“About five hours ago.”

Matty whistled. “Impressive. Brains and brawn.”

“You know, Matty,” I said. “You keep talking like that and I’m gonna start thinking you have a thing for me.”

“Well, now that you mention it…” he joked. “Actually, I was checking out your friend.”

“Trip? He’s got a girlfriend.”

“No, you idiot.” Matty cleared his throat, suddenly uncomfortable. “The girl. Tannis.”

“Tannis?” My eyebrows shot up. “She’s not—“ I stopped, realizing what I’d been about to say– she’s not a girl – was mean. I might rag on Tannis to her face, but I didn’t want to do it behind her back. “– not seeing anyone,” I finished.
This scene takes place at a party after the Warrior Dash, a big race that kicks off tourist season in the small, dilapidated Vermont ski town that is the setting for This Is How It Ends. While the novel centers on the dual mysteries of a murder and a strange pair of binoculars the teens find, underlying both is an exploration of friendship - how we come together with certain people, who we trust and to what extent and why. The dialogue between Riley and Matty in this scene is representative of that. Matty isn’t a big player in the story, but perhaps Riley should have chosen him as a closer friend. Instead, Riley holds fast to his childhood friendship with Trip, who he describes as “capricious, fearless, self-centered, fun and loyal when he wants to be”, though they have little in common but their shared history.

What I love about this scene is its potential energy. It’s near the tipping point of the story and the blocks that have been put in place are about to start tumbling down. Each of the things mentioned in this casual dialogue – Matty’s interest in Tannis, the Warrior Dash which Riley just ran with Sarah, his longtime crush, Matty’s earlier comments about the SATs – are all significant to how the story unfolds.
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--Marshal Zeringue