An accident puts everything into shocking perspective in this darkly funny, “searing portrayal of power, privilege, and betrayal in the hills above Los Angeles” (Publishers Weekly).
Gabby lived under the radar until her makeover. Way under. But when she started her senior year as a blonder, better-dressed version of herself, she struck gold: Billy Nash believed she was the flawless girl she was pretending to be. The next eight months with Billy were bliss...Until the night Gabby woke up on the ground next to the remains of his BMW without a single memory of how she got there.
And Billy's nowhere to be found.
All Gabby wants is to make everything perfect again. But getting her life back isn’t just difficult, it’s impossible. Because nothing is the same, and Gabby's beginning to realize she’s missed more than a few danger signs along the way. It’s time for Gabby to face the truth, even if it means everything changes.
1. One of the first things we learn about Gabby is that she underwent a complete physical makeover just prior to the time the story begins. When and how can a makeover become problematic? Do you think there are any pros or cons to Gabby's makeover?
2. What was your first impression of Billy? How did your opinion of him change as the story unfolded? What events most influenced your opinion of him?
3. To what extent did you feel sympathy toward Gabby? Why, and when? When did you like Gabby? When did you dislike Gabby?
4. Gabby often remarked about how she needed Billy to want her. Consider her comment: “I need to see him all the time and I need to make him want me again.” What do you think Gabby really “needed” and “wanted” from the relationship? How much of love is need? How much of love is want? What is the difference?
5. Gabby discussed her “memorabilia drawer.” What kinds of things would be found in your memorabilia drawer?
6. Gabby describes Andy and Andie's relationship as "the only good marriage any of us has ever seen." What do you make of their relationship? Do you find their relationship appealing, or too close?
7. Billy repeatedly encouraged Gabby to “pretend” when answering to the entourage of people hired to support her. Was this plan ever realistic? How much do you think is possible for someone to pretend to this extreme? How successful was Gabby at pretending? How would you have advised Gabby in her situation?
8. Discuss when Gabby was most real in the story, and how this side of her shone through.
9. Does Gabby ever come to terms fully with her drinking? Do you see her as having a drinking problem? What do you make of her reaction to AA?
10. Should Gabby have realized that Billy was manipulating her before Huey showed her the photos? Is Gabby, in some sense, manipulating Billy? What do you think of Gabby as a narrator? Is she reliable? Why or why not?
11. Gabby thinks Ponytail is clueless throughout much of the book. What do you think? Is Ponytail a good therapist? Why or why not? Would you have done anything differently as Gabby's therapist?
12. Gabby described her “metamorphosis from invisibility to whatever.” How would you characterize her metamorphosis, in your own words? Apart from her initial makeover, identify other significant metamorphoses Gabby experienced in Where It Began.
13. How do you feel about the story’s ending? Was it what you expected? Was justice served, according to Gabby? Was justice served, according to you?
14. Ann Redisch Stampler wove a consistent trail of mystery and suspense throughout the story. At what times were you most unnerved? When were you most suspicious? At what points were you confident with your assessment of what was happening? When were you in doubt? How did Ann Redisch Stampler convey these feelings to the reader, in her writing?
Questions written by Catharine Sotzing, an elementary school teacher at the Dalton School, New York, NY.
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Ann Redisch Stampler is the author of the young adult novels Afterparty and Where It Began as well as half a dozen picture books. Her work has garnered an Aesop accolade, the National Jewish Book Award, Sydney Taylor honors, the Middle East Book Award, and Bank Street Best Books of the Year mentions. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband, Rick.