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“Normally I lift the cap and find a pattern. And then sometimes there’s nothing but a damp splotch, a slimy mess not worth saving. All I can do is toss it out, and try again” Jorie. —What Goes Up
What Goes Up
by Christine Heppermann
The past few months have not been ideal for Jorie, to say the least. Her ex-boyfriend, Ian, has left for college, but they are trying to “still be friends.” Her parents’ marriage is on the rocks after her father’s affair and she is struggling to trust him. In addition, Jorie is trying to understand why her mother chose to stay in the relationship. To escape life’s drama, Jorie decides to attend a college party with her boyfriend, Ian, and his two friends.
The next morning, Jorie wakes up in the dorm of an unfamiliar college boy, with a text from Ian that says, “you go and hook up with [one of my friends] right in front of me. You’re such a hypocrite.” Full of regret, Jorie decides to explore what led to this moment and where she goes from here.
What Goes Up is a novel in verse. Since the story is told through poems rather than traditional structure, the story is a little confusing. The reader must pay close attention to keep track of the timeline, as it is not well established. Another confusing element is that the bulk of the book is a series of flashbacks that aren’t in chronological order.
Jorie’s character is explored intimately, and she is easy to sympathize with. Her flaws are present, but they don’t detract from her likability. However, because of the introspective nature of the book, readers don’t learn much about the other characters. This is not a detriment to the overall story as the focus is clearly meant to be on Jorie’s emotions anyway.
Jorie is an artist with an interest in the science of mushrooms and fungi, using mushroom spore prints in her work. The reader will be surprised at how the mushroom and fungi facts parallel Jorie’s experiences and relationships. For example, she discusses signs of toxicity in mushrooms and how “even experts have been fooled by specimens they thought were safe,” clearly alluding to the trouble between her parents.
This breezy, uniquely told story is sometimes confusing. The shortness of the book will undoubtedly leave readers wanting more information about Jorie’s life and her relationships. The book implies that Jorie’s drunken hookup with Ian’s friend is just as big of a betrayal as her father cheating on her mother, which is puzzling. While insensitive, the hookup took place after her and Ian had broken up, so it was not adulterous.
Even though What Goes Up is a bit confusing, it is still a very interesting read that can be enjoyed by seasoned and new readers of verse novels. The writing is witty and charming which balances out the rawness of the serious topics. Overall, this story succeeds in sending out a powerful cautionary message about the domino effect that can be spurred by difficult moments in life and provides an important exploration of whether it is possible to still love someone after a betrayal.
- The book begins with Jorie waking up in the bed of a college boy who she recalls kissing the night before. They might have had sex, but her waking up to see his head “poking out from the shell of a green sleeping bag” leaves room for interpretation. She was drunk, and the book implies that the boy decided not to take advantage of her in that state.
- Jorie recalls kissing a boy at recess when she was little, saying he “gagged me with his Dorito-crusted tongue.” The boy kisses her friend during the same recess period.
- Ian begins jokingly “miming masturbation,” while alone with Jorie while talking about reproductive cells in mushrooms.
- The day after the party, Jorie’s friend texts her in regards to how she made Ian feel. The friend asks how Jorie would feel if she saw him “ho it up with one of [her] friends.”
- In seventh grade, Jorie and her friends were drunk while jumping on the trampoline. Jorie says, “a midair collision forced us back down to earth.” Her friend sustained a non-serious head injury.
- Jorie remembers an incident in elementary school where a boy tried French kissing her friend. Her friend bit a boy’s lip “so hard it bled.”
- In a fit of anger, Jorie slaps her mother. Jorie says “it was like smacking a stone, a wall . . . I was crying and thinking, Why is she letting me do this?”
Drugs and Alcohol
- In seventh grade, Jorie goes to a friend’s house and drinks an old bottle of wine they found in the back of a cabinet. Jorie and her friend “passed it back and forth until the taste didn’t matter, until we couldn’t stop giggling.”
- Jorie goes to a party where she and her friends drink White Russians. Jorie becomes disoriented and is hungover the next morning.
- Jorie watches a video of herself while she was drunk. “Drunk me teeters on the edge of the couch like a Jenga tower.”
- Jorie makes art using mushroom spore prints. A fellow student asks her if he could get high by licking it. The student calls to Ian, “‘remember that time we were shrooming and you thought your sister’s guinea pig was possessed?”
- Jorie says that the boy who kissed her and her friend in elementary school began calling them “ugly Slut and Lesbo Bitch.”
- The boyfriend of the woman Jorie’s father is cheating with shows up at her house “yelling about his whore of a girlfriend, [her] mom’s piece of shit husband.”
- Fuck is said a couple of times.
- “Dickweed” is said once.
- In a blind rage, Jorie says she called her mother “a bitch, a fucking idiot, a stupid–I can’t even write the word.”
by Erin Cosgrove