Sage Czinski is trying really hard to be perfect. If she manages it, people won’t peer beyond the surface, or ask hard questions about her past. She’s learned to substitute causes for relationships, and it’s working just fine… until Shane Cavendish strolls into her math class. He’s a little antisocial, a lot beautiful, and everything she never knew she always wanted.
Shane Cavendish just wants to be left alone to play guitar and work on his music. He’s got heartbreak and loneliness in his rearview mirror, and this new school represents his last chance. He doesn’t expect to be happy; he only wants to graduate and move on. He never counted on a girl like Sage.
But love doesn’t mend all broken things, and sometimes life has to fall apart before it can be put back together again…– Goodreads
Sage just wants to be perfect, but not for the reasons you may think. She lives in a small town with her Aunt, her past has hasn’t been perfect and she fears one misstep and her Aunt will kick her out. Sage is a good kid, yeah, she has a past but she is trying to survive high school and make it out of that small midwest town where everyone knows everyone.
I fit in with the crunchy granola do-gooders….When I graduate, I’m getting out of her, where everything feels small….but I can love her without thinking this is the best place ever. —pg 2, ARC
With her BFF Ryan, she is a bit of a loner who stays by herself, but also leaves post it notes of love on random peoples lockers to make them know that they aren’t alone. What Sage doesn’t know, is in her loner bubble, how much those post its have saved people and helped them and what she means to a small high school. The school year starts off with Sage finding out that her BFFRyan, was actually leading people to believe that they were dating, even though they’re not. They’ve always been just friends. Then, he breaks her heart, and they take a break from friendship. I loved that they took a break, I found The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things to be realistic to high school.
Not everyone’s high school experience, but to Sage, yes.
Mostly, I’m sad. I wish he hadn’t done it, but some lies change everything. — pg 61, ARC
What Sage doesn’t expect is Shane, the new guy to have such a ripple effect on her and her group. In particular the fact that she has a group, including Lila, a girl who rarely talked to her quickly became a dear friend. It wasn’t that Ryan held her back, but because she was so in that bubble, she often didn’t look on the outside of that bubble. The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things was more than just high school and life, it was finding your true home, even if that isn’t where you expected it to be.
Sage even uses her growth to forgive Ryan, something she didn’t believe was possible at the beginning because her heart hurt so much.
Everybody makes mistakes, sweetheart. But if you can live with the possibility that this silence between you might last forever, if that’s what you want, then go ahead.–pg 103, ARC
Ryan of course is confused that Shane is now in Sage’s life, wasn’t he supposed to be the only guy? But Sage doesn’t stand for that bullshit and she calls people out on it. However, this calling people out comes back to bite her in the form of Dylan, Lila’s ex-boyfriend who has secrets of his own. Secrets that Sage is aware of and while the two try to constantly up each other, at one point he makes her fear for her safety, Shane is always on Sage’s side.
Both Shane and Sage have such fucked up backgrounds that they make it work. It’s not pretty, it’s often messy, but the two of them are humans who slowly fall in love with each other.
Not like me. And I’m so afraid that if I tell you everything, you’ll won’t see me as more than the pieces they swept up after. —pg 138, ARC
When everything does come out, and Sage feels most alone, because people won’t understand her school rally around her and shows her how much they meant to her all on post-its, just like she did for them in their moment of need. They told her things like:
You made me not want to kill myself. I took a college art class because of you. Your kindness gave me hope.–pg 280
That moment touched Sage in a way she didn’t believe was possible because she was so broken, but they did. They helped to heal her heart and her soul. What also helped to heal her heart was a moment with her aunt in which Aunt Gabby states:
I don’t know how much you’re hearing right now, but understand this: I love you. And I will never, ever leave you. No matter what you do or where you go, I’m there for you. If you need to ride a bike home in the pouring rain, I’ll be right behind you.–pg 290-1
With the childhood she had, Sage knows she was not suposed to be lucky enough to end up with her aunt, someone who loves her unconditionally, and she worries that she’ll do something that will make her aunt regret that love. The fact that her aunt says this to her means the world to Sage. The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things was a pleasant surprise. It was a book full of flawed, real teenagers and a year in one of their lives.