Where It Began

Sometimes the end is just the beginning.

Gabby Gardiner wakes up in a hospital bed looking like a cautionary ad for drunk driving and without a single memory of the accident that landed her there. But what she can recall, in frank and sardonic detail, is the year leading up to the crash.

As Gabby describes her transformation from Invisible Girl to Trendy Girl Who Dates Billy Nash (aka Most Desirable Boy Ever), she is left wondering: Why is Billy suddenly distancing himself from her? What do her classmates know that Gabby does not? Who exactly was in the car that night? And why has Gabby been left to take the fall?

As she peels back the layers of her life, Gabby begins to realize that her climb up the status ladder has been as intoxicating as it has been morally complex... and that nothing about her life is what she has imagined it to be.

Published March 6, 2012 by Simon Pulse

ISBN-10: 1442423218 ISBN-13: 978-1442423213 Hardcover, Paperback: 369 pages

Also available as an eBook: Kindle | iBookstore | Nook | and other retailers

A terrific read! Ann Stampler puts you in Gabby's head and keeps you there until the gripping conclusion. A writer to watch!

Alex Flinn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Beastly


Jenny Han, bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty



The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

April 2012 (Vol. 65, No. 8) by Karen Coats

It begins with an extreme makeover that turns Gabby from an ordinary girl into a beauty that her mother can finally be proud of. Extensions, highlights, makeup, and new clothes catch the attention of Billy Nash, and Gabby begins to think that her mother may have been right about the value of transforming herself. Her relationship with Billy is a bit of a minefield, but Gabby walks carefully, weighing every comment, text message, and sultry look to achieve just the right level of flirtatious interest without seeming needy. Then one night she awakens to find herself alone on the ground beside Billy’s totaled BMW, smelling of beer and vodka, unable to remember anything about how she got there.

When she, home and recuperating, finally hears from Billy, he’s relieved that she doesn’t remember anything and encourages her to keep her mouth shut; he even gets his mother to arrange for a lawyer for her so that her punishment for drunkenly wrecking the car won’t be that bad. Readers will obviously smell a huge rat in Billy’s eager steering of the blame to Gabby, but she sees what she wants to see, and since she really doesn’t remember what happened, she accepts that she stole her boyfriend’s car and destroyed it.

Her intense need for his love is as relatable as it is pathetic; even while covering their faces with their hands, readers will see themselves in Gabby as as they suffer vicariously through her willful ignorance of what a manipulative jerk Billy is. The weird reactions of her classmates to what they misunderstand as her extreme girlfriend loyalty are a severe indictment of the whole high school class/gender system, and the narcissistic parents get a lashing as well, but it’s all done in a context that avoids preaching in favor of involving and emotionally rich storytelling.

Review Code: R -- Recommended.

(c) Copyright 2006, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.

2012, Simon Pulse, 384p.; Reviewed from galleys, $16.99 and $9.99 E-book ed.. Grades 7-10.


Library Media Connection

May/June 2012 by Catherine M. Andronik

Gabby has no memory of the events that led up to the accident that landed her in the hospital with head trauma, but the evidence is there: a high blood alcohol level and the keys to her boyfriend Billy's wrecked BMW in her hand. Chronic bad boy Billy has a lot to lose; nevertheless, he and his wealthy mother seem to be helping Gabby with legal counsel and what looks like sound advice. But as Gabby slowly returns to her old friends and school life, she senses that there is more to the accident. Savvy readers will figure out the truth much more quickly than love-struck Gabby, but the revelation, and her recognition of a self-worth that is not dependent on money, looks, or social status, is quite satisfying. [Editor's Note: Available in e-book format.]


2012, Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster), 384pp., $16.99 hc.. Ages 14 to 18.


Kirkus Reviews

A poor little not-quite-so-rich girl tries to keep her privileged boyfriend after a car accident that can get them both into serious legal trouble in this acerbic take on the phoniness of Bel Air, Brentwood and Beverly Hills.

The relentlessly wry and sarcastic tone of this first-person yarn instantly grabs readers’ interest and propels the story forward. Gabby has learned survival skills growing up among the super-wealthy. The story begins with Gabby in the hospital, recovering from a car accident she can’t remember. It seems, judging by the keys found in her hand, that she stole her boyfriend’s BMW and crashed it into a tree. Gabby’s only concern is saving her relationship with Billy, her richer-than-rich boyfriend, against the wishes of his aggressive lawyer mother. Whatever Billy wants, Gabby willingly does, as she shrewdly trims her behavior according to her finely tuned instincts that keep him involved with her.

When an actual friend finally proves the truth to her, she still feels trapped in a system that rewards only the power of money. Stampler paints a ruthless portrait of wealthy Los Angeles, but she finds the occasional human being there too. Readers will find much cynicism but also humor and insight into a corrupt system not necessarily confined to the rich.

Clever and constantly interesting, this is as much a winner as Gabby.

(Fiction. 14 & up)


Publishers Weekly

At the beginning of this strong YA debut from picture-book author Stampler (The Rooster Prince of Breslov), high school senior Gabby wakes up in the hospital with a spotty memory and a battered body. Memories of her recent transformation from a “sub-regular girl with nothing going for her” to an it-girl, becoming the girlfriend of ultrapopular student Billy Nash, are crystal clear, but the details of the car accident that landed her in the hospital have been lost. Gabby apparently crashed Billy’s car while drunk, and Billy must pretend to sever their relationship to avoid violating his probation. It’s evident that there is more to the story, but Gabby refuses to see any red flags.

Stampler’s story of a girl’s obsession with a guy at the expense of all else is powerful, and Gabby’s alcohol problem, her devotion to Billy, and her overall denial are entirely believable. Gabby’s sardonic voice will draw readers into the story immediately, as Stampler delivers a searing portrayal of power, privilege, and betrayal in the hills above Los Angeles.

Ages 14–up.

Agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates.



VOYA February 2012

Awakening in the hospital, Gabby learns she apparently stole and totaled her boyfriend's car, her drunkenness causing the horrendous crash in which she was found alone, holding the keys. Retrograde amnesia erased all memory of the accident's circumstances. Gabby's main concern, however, is her suddenly absentee boyfriend, Billy, her exclusive school's golden boy habitually on probation, rather than her extensive injuries. Gabby immediately contacts Billy, whose ardor has cooled. He slyly specifies instructions regarding her behavior during upcoming legalities, and tells her that her circumstances are detrimental to their being a public couple, but Gabby only hears they are still together.

Gabby's classmates speak of the accident cryptically, assuming she knows its details. Although her sole concern remains Billy, Gabby slowly realizes the accident's specifics sound nothing like her character, and Gabby's dependence upon Billy ends dramatically in an unexpected and daring way.

Gabby is a witty and sarcastic narrator, nailing the superficiality of her exclusive high school and wealthy friends. Her utter dependence upon Billy is cringe-worthy, realistic within the context of her parents' inattention, but somewhat at odds with her sharp narration. The novel's cover implies a darker mystery/suspense {spoiler removed}... females will eagerly anticipate the accident's entire truth revealed, especially through its surprising and gratifying ending.


Blogger Reviews

From In The Good Books:

"The characters are dynamic and realistic...an enriching contemporary any fan of the genre should definitely seek out."

From Annabell's Book Nook:

"I loved this book...It was so real and I felt like I could really connect with Gabby."