my take: "Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic."*
Nanette and Alex meet through their encounter with an out-of-publication novel, The Bubblegum Reaper. Each is a loner in their own way. They try to discover what happens to the hero of the book after the final chapter - much like The Fault in Our Stars.
Exquisite celebrates the different, the wall-flower, the marginalized, the odd-bird, the lonely as seen through the eyes of a high schooler.
Helping teenagers see we're not all the same ... and yet we are all the same. Feeling apartness - other-ness is part of the human condition. As Nanette discovers her own apartness, she looks to the 'herd' of high schoolers as being the same - wanting to conform to what success and 'happiness' look like: popularity, sports achievements, drinking, sex, being considered 'normal'.
Ultimately, Nanette's choice can not be everybody's choice - going to find a different group of people. Some of us need to stay in the pool we're in ... and realize that though we may not fit in, we're still valuable. I heartily applaud Mr. Quick's philosophical allusion that the unexamined life is not worth living. I would add that there are layers of examination ... after all, what we learn so much after those brutal teenage years.
my source: popped up after I ordered The Memory of Light from Amazon
my verdict: Great YA read. I also loved his The Good Luck of Right Now
*Quoted in Every Exquisite Thing from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.
If you are read the hardcover edition, check under the dust cover when you're done.