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Starting from Here

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Sixteen-year-old Colby Bingham's heart has been broken too many times. Her mother has been dead for almost two years, her truck driver father is always away, her almost girlfriend just dumped her for a guy, and now she's failing chemistry.

When a stray dog lands literally at her feet, bleeding and broken on a busy road, it seems like the Universe has it in for Colby. But the incident also knocks a chink in the walls she's built around her heart. Against her better judgment, she decides to care for the dog. But new connections mean new opportunities for heartbreak.

Terrified of another loss, Colby bolts at the first sign of trouble, managing to alienate her best friend, her father, the cute girl pursuing her, and even her dog's vet, who's taken Colby under her wing. Colby can't start over, but can she learn how to move on?

288 pages, Hardcover

First published September 4, 2012

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About the author

Lisa Jenn Bigelow

4 books187 followers
Michigan native Lisa Jenn Bigelow is the critically acclaimed author of the middle grade novels Hazel’s Theory of Evolution (2019), winner of the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Children's/Middle Grade, and Drum Roll, Please (2018),  an Illinois Reads selection and Michigan Notable Book; and the young adult novel Starting from Here (2012), an ALA Rainbow List Top Ten Book. A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she serves as a youth librarian in the Chicago suburbs during her non-writing hours.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 146 reviews
Profile Image for Kat (Lost in Neverland).
445 reviews698 followers
July 10, 2013

Happiness happy ending of happy level at:



After a sudden break-up with her first girlfriend, Colby Bingham is devastated to find out that the same girl she had loved for months dumped her for a boy.
Colby's still dealing with the loss of her mother from cancer two years earlier and the fact that her father is never around because of his job. When she witnesses a dog being hit by a car because of her own actions, Colby and her 'best buddy' Van rush off to the animal hospital to save him. The dog loses his leg but is fine otherwise. Colby instantly falls in love with the stray's 'cow coloring' and deep brown puppydog eyes and claims him as her own, even though she's already poor enough as it is.
The kind veterinarian who did the surgery for free offers to help Colby with training Mo (the dog).
But after having her heart broken twice, first with the death of her mom and then with the girl she thought loved her, Colby isn't keen on getting close to anyone. And that includes her own father, who she still hasn't come out to, or the cute and friendly girl who wants to get to know her.

It's always refreshing to read a book with characters you haven't read the perspective from in most common YA novels. A female gay main character and love interest?


It was certainly a new experience Am I blushing? No, that's not blushing. I just rubbed an apple on my cheeks, that's all and a very realistic approach to teen sexuality and culture nowadays;
Not everyone's rich or have a nice house. Not everyone is straight. Everyone has sudden sexual thoughts and urges. And everyone loves a cute dog story.

When it's well done, at least.

Good beginning, incredibly slow middle, entertaining but corny ending.
The writing was alright and the story had too much of a happy, everyone-gets-what-they-want-yay! ending. Maybe that's just me, but I can't stand endings like that.

It goes a little like this; Happy happy happy and everything works out!

That. Doesn't. Always. Happen.

This story seriously made me realize how utterly depressing I make my own stories. I just kill off most of my characters (not because I don't feel like writing them but I just can't help it) and leave the character horrifically and sadly alone.

Not to mention I always kill off my love interests for some reason. I guess I just either hate love interests or love making my characters miserable.



However, if you're looking for a happy book with a realistic (kind of) story about how modern gay teenagers deal with relationships, life, coming out to parents, anxiety, etc., then pick up this book.

Though I will warn you, the plot is very, very, slow in the middle, and the ending is so cute and perfect, you might just vomit rainbows and sparkles.


Profile Image for anna (½ of readsrainbow).
561 reviews1,736 followers
February 14, 2021
rep: lesbian mc & li, gay side character

3.5 ☆

listen i wanted a cute gay contemporary romance & that's exactly what i got!! with a proper amount of angts, two girls being adorable and flirting, some family drama and teen drama, and a DOG mixed in.
Profile Image for Cass.
56 reviews56 followers
September 19, 2012
I won a copy of this book in a First Reads giveaway.

Review originally posted on my blog.

I broke one of my very strict reading rules by entering the giveaway for this book. The blurb for Starting From Here starts off with:

Sixteen-year-old Colby Bingham’s heart has been broken too many times. Her mother is dead, her truck driver father is always away, and her almost girlfriend just dumped her for a guy.

Normally any mention of a) a dead mom, b) a newly straight ex-girlfriend and, to a lesser extent, c) an absent dad, is enough to send me running for the hills. Or clicking over to a different book page on Goodreads. You know, whatever fits the circumstances. I’m the girl who gets text messages from friends letting me know when the books they are reading contain any mention of Mom Death (MD), even if I’ve never mentioned any intent to read those books. You could say that I’m a bit more sensitive about that topic than your average Jill.

Based on that, I probably should have passed on this little book. The thing was, uh, I really liked the cover? (I have the best reasons for choosing books.) So I entered the giveaway and I won and I read it and, luckily, I only cried a little.

There is a lot more to Colby’s story than the death of her mother–I’ll get to that in a minute–but I want to talk a bit about the way that loss is presented in this book. The struggle with the grief and absolute awfulness of losing your mother as a teenager as described in Starting From Here is amazingly realistic and honest. For instance, Colby didn’t come out to her mother before she died , and when Colby has this conversation after she starts to date a new girl:

“Well, congratulations, Colby. You deserve a nice girl.”

“A nice girl,” I repeated. “Who are you, my mother?”

The words just slipped out, and I felt a little jolt in my gut, like an elevator dropping two inches. I wanted to believe that Mom would like Amelia. I wanted to believe she’d be cheering for me, too. But I didn’t know–and I never would. (p. 185)

I maaaaay have teared up a bit there. The mentions of her mom and the pain of missing her were the highlight of the novel for me, partly because they bear a resemblance to my own experience, but mostly because they capture those emotions so well.

The real focus of Starting From Here is Colby’s relationships with her father, who is absent most days of the week for his long-distance trucking job, and Mo, a stray dog she adopts after she saves him when Mo is hit by a car. Through taking care of Mo, Colby begins the healing process and meets her new love interest, Amelia. Colby’s best friend, Van, is struggling with being a constant baby-sitter for his nephew and trying to have a social life. The Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at Colby’s school is planning a dance. Oh, and Colby also has a complicated friendship with the local veterinarian, who has marital problems.

Needless to say, there’s a lot going on here, and it takes away from the best parts of the book: the handling of grief after Colby’s mom’s death, father/daughter relationships, and Colby’s rediscovery of herself through Max and Amelia and Van. The writing is stilted at points and sometimes reminded me of the writing you might find in an early 1990s YA book, but overall, I was satisfied and glad I took a chance on a book with the dreaded Mom Death.

Grade: B

Recommended: Particularly for the deft handling of Post-MD emotions, but also as a solid YA novel with a variety of LGBT characters. Oh, and there’s an endearing dog who doesn’t die.
Profile Image for Dahlia.
Author 18 books2,294 followers
June 9, 2016
This was cute. I think there was too much time dedicated to the romance Colby couldn't get over and not enough to the new one, but there was a lot of sweet stuff in here, a lot of queer representation, a good "mom substitute" subplot, and a pretty damn cute 3-legged dog.
Profile Image for Neeti.
161 reviews5 followers
May 19, 2021
5/5 for the amazing ass main character and the plot around her!
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 6 books1,204 followers
March 28, 2013
This was really sweet!

Colby's girlfriend Rachel just broke up with her, and to make matters worse, Rachel's already found herself a boyfriend. Colby wants to avoid Rachel now, and she does so by spending as much time with best friend Van as she can, while also avoiding ally meetings. One afternoon while out with Van, a stray dog wanders toward them, and when the dog becomes spooked, he's hit by an oncoming car. It's then Colby knows she needs to take this dog under her care, even if it means telling a few lies.

Bigelow's debut is a novel about relationships -- about the relationships between people, especially family and friends, and the relationships between humans and animals. Colby is a lesbian, and there's a sweet romance that buds between her and another girl. But it's not an easy relationship. Colby isn't necessarily a sympathetic character; at times, she's completely selfish, she tells lies, and she uses a lot of excuses to get out of responsibilities she has (to herself and to other people). The relationship between Colby and her father is fantastic, even if it's not easy. It's not easy because neither Colby nor her father are easy people. Both have things they want, and both realize there are things they need to do in order to succeed for themselves as individuals as themselves as a family without mom. The grief sits heavy between them, but it never defines their relationship.

One of the big elements of the story I loved was that Colby comes from a lower class family. She lives in a trailer, and her friends do not. But this is never, ever a big deal. Colby likes that her friends live in houses, but it's never a thing pointed out to readers. it's just reality; it's just how these people live and interact. It doesn't define them as one thing or another (as in, Colby CAN interact and befriend people who have more money and it's not a big deal).

This book is sweet without being saccharine. It's a fairly clean read (there's one scene between the girls where Colby mentions that Amelia put her mouth in a place no other girl had had her mouth) and I'd be comfortable handing it to younger teen readers. But because there is so much here, it's a book older teen readers will enjoy, too.

My only reservation is that at times, it felt like there were a few info dumps, especially in regards to the death of Colby's mother. But those spots are not too lengthy, and because the book itself has a swift pace, it's not a deal breaker.

Pair this one with Michael Northrop's Rotten for the obvious: a relationship between a teen and their new pet dog. But there's also a LOT of interesting parallels where it comes to social class, family relationships, and more. Although the voice isn't as strong and although there aren't as many hurdles to jump in terms of acceptance of Colby's sexuality, I can see readers who enjoyed this book also enjoying Kirstin Cronn-Mills's The Sky Always Hears Me.
Profile Image for Arminzerella.
3,705 reviews86 followers
June 17, 2013
When Colby’s mother passed away (cancer), she left a hole that couldn’t be filled. Colby’s father dealt with his grief by taking responsibility – he took a job as a cross-country trucker – to support his remaining family (Colby). And Colby was left alone in their tiny trailer. The alternative – living with her aunt while her dad was away – was impossible (they did NOT get along). Not an ideal situation, but Colby was able to deal with it because she had a great girlfriend (Rachel), a great best friend (Van), was involved in her school’s very active and supportive LGBT Alliance group, and was holding out the hope that her dad would (some day) take a job that allowed him to stay home with her. When Rachel breaks up with her, and Colby cuts all of their common social ties, it doesn’t leave her many opportunities to spend time with her friends. Then her dad says he’s going to buy his own rig – which means he doesn’t EVER intend to fully commit to being her dad. Colby’s grades are dropping, and she just doesn’t care. Things are going to get much worse before they get better, but at least Colby has Mo – the dog she and Van rescue after Mo is hit by a car.

Colby is a bit prickly (she has good reason to be), but she’s absolutely devoted to Mo and Van, and the other people she loves. She makes a lot of mistakes, too, but her heart is in the right place, and she’s not afraid to eat humble pie when the occasion warrants it. I liked the characters in this book, and although Colby is gay, this isn’t just a book about coming out. That’s just one element. This is also about dealing with grief and family problems, and falling in love, and being a responsible dog owner, and making new friends, and moving on. Lovely, and a fast read.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kayla.
1,565 reviews65 followers
October 7, 2012
Starting From Here is a great LGBT novel. The novel accurately portrays what it’s like to be an LGBT high school student. I could definitely relate a lot to Colby. We went through a lot of similar situations in our high school careers. I thought it was cool that her school had an LGBT alliance. I wish that my school would have had one when I was in high school. It would have made things a lot easier. I felt a lot of pity for Colby. The only thing that seemed to be going right for her was her best friend Van. That was until she found Moe. Moe was her turning point. She became a lot happier. Towards the middle/ending of the novel, she became a selfish brat which quickly became annoying. I’m glad her attitude ended fairly quickly. Her attitude improved in the end, and mostly everything worked out for her. My favorite character was Van. He was kind, loving, sweet and funny. Colby was blessed to have a great best friend. I was glad Colby ended up with who she ended up with in the end. She needs someone that will treat her great. I will definitely read more of the author's work in the future. I think everyone should read this book so they can grasp what it's like to be different from everyone else.
Profile Image for Sissy Van Dyke.
Author 2 books10 followers
February 15, 2017
The thing I liked most about this book is the same thing that I liked least: it was an accurate depiction of what it is like to fall in love, come out, and be rejected in high school. This book brought me back the angst and excitement of my own high school coming out experiences.

Colby had three advantages that I didn't in high school: 1) A truck, 2) A most excellent friend: Van, and 3) an unconditionally loving dog: Mo. She also has a great father who provides the added benefit of leaving her alone for days at a time (if only!).

I really enjoyed this book, and I think it was a wonderful first novel - the first of many, I hope!
Profile Image for Liviania.
957 reviews63 followers
February 28, 2013
Lisa Jenn Bigelow's debut is the story of Colby Bingham, an independent senior high school student struggling to connect to her family, friends, and girlfriends. She's still reeling from the death of her mother, two years ago, and doesn't feel like she can talk to her father, a trucker who is rarely home.

She has people in her life who would love to help her. There's her best friend, Van, who is practically her brother. The teacher in charge of the school's GSA often tries to check in with her. When she takes in a stray, the local vet takes Colby under her wing. But Colby can't seem to keep herself from pushing her people away instead of just letting them care for her.

STARTING FROM HERE is the type of story that can easily get frustrating. But Bigelow writes Colby with a great deal of empathy. You can see what she's thinking and why. Colby's decisions are reasonable from her point of view, even when they're remarkably stupid decisions. And honestly, what teenager hasn't made stupid decisions, especially in the absence of adult supervision.

The romance is integral to the story, but those just looking for romance might be disappointed in STARTING FROM HERE. The book begins with Colby's closeted girlfriend Rachel dumping her - and immediately palling around school with her new boyfriend. Colby's hurt, insulted, and unfortunately still in love. When she meets someone new who is definitely interested, she's not sure if she's ready for another relationship - particularly since her crush isn't out to her (religious) parents. Of course, Colby may be out and proud and school but she's not out to her father either.

I really enjoyed STARTING FROM HERE. It's a fantastic contemporary that delves deep into the life of its protagonist. It deals with grief and heartbreak, but it's ultimately optimistic - if you can't tell from the title. It tackles complicated issues in complicated ways, and throws in a sweet three-legged dog for good measure. I suspect it will appeal to fans of Laurie Halse Anderson.
Profile Image for Anna Bi.
168 reviews
February 24, 2017
3.5 stars
took me forever to finish it but definitely worth the read! the story followed a pretty Classic© teen narrative but I appreciated that colbys sexuality wasn't THE MAIN FOCUS of the book, there was no "oh shit im gay!" it was more like "I love this girl who doesnt love me back waah!" the writing was straightforward and fine. I feel like the characters lacked dimmension in some cases (I felt like we Really only knew colby and van, and maybe her dad) but the novel clearly wasn't written to, like, change the way u see life as u know it. I enjoyed it, and that's all that matters, right?
the biggest problem I had was that half of colbys problems couldve been dealt with a lot faster if she'd just!!! communicated and !!! wasnt so immature!!! but I think that was bigelows point, teens arent mature normally and she grew a lot by the end of the novel. also MO WAS SUCH A GOOD ADDITION TO THE BOOK definitely added an original aspect to a pretty typical narrative. I'd recommend to people who just want a short, simple story and need more lesbian books in their life
Profile Image for Heidi.
164 reviews52 followers
October 25, 2012
Short, sweet and very heartfelt YA. It's your basic coming-of-age type story - angsty teenager dealing with friends, family, school, romance - but with an LGBT angle (and not just the main character - her best friend also is gay, and her group of friends forms their school's gay/straight alliance - so lots of opportunity to explore LGBT youth issues). The story touches on a lot of other issues, too, like class/money and the death of a parent.

In short, Colby, the main character, is struggling with a whole mess of things (schoolwork, regular work, her mother's death from cancer, her mostly absent father, the girl who dumped her for a guy), and then she adopts this stray dog and her transformational love for Mr. Mutt becomes a catalyst for/lens through which she sees everything else happening in her life. It's a quick but worthy read, and Colby is a wonderful character. I really wish there had been more LGBT stories like this when I was her age.
Profile Image for Karyl.
1,668 reviews119 followers
December 1, 2012
Really fabulous coming-of-age story. Colby is a high school junior whose mother died of cancer, and whose father is always gone, working as a trucker. She thinks she is in love with Rachel, who has recently dumped her for a boy. In the midst of all this pain, she rescues a dog that has been hit by a car and is gravely injured, though she feels inside just as broken as her dog had been. The novel focuses on Colby's growing up, on her finally starting to let people in, and to be open and honest about who she is and what she needs. I enjoyed the fact that while most of the teen characters were gay, it was just another descriptor, like the fact that Amelia has hazel eyes. And it was heartening to read a novel in which the teens are strong enough to be out. Maybe things are getting better, maybe people are becoming less mean. One can hope.

Highly recommended.
August 24, 2012
Teen Review

Genre: Romance/Family

Colby find a stray dog near her house and through him she learns how to open herself up to new relationships and opportunities.

This book was very relatable and well-written. It focused on a lot of different issues and was an overall very satisfying book. The characters were very diverse and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

People might like this book if they liked:
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Reviewed by Bethany
Profile Image for connie.
1,313 reviews77 followers
May 16, 2018
4/5 stars

Let me start off this very angry review by saying that I loved this book. It was genuine and heartfelt, showing the real process of grief but also giving the main character, Colby, happiness that helped her begin to cope. I loved Mo, Colby's dog, and the way grief was treated; the romance between Colby and Amelia was adorable and heartwarming, and the only reason I gave this a 4 rather than a 5 was because I feel there could have been more time spent building up the relationship between Amelia and Colby. The fact that this also shows a complicated relationship between Colby and her father that ultimately ends with (SPOILER ALERT I GUESS) acceptance was something I couldn't have been happier about. I even loved Van, Colby's best friend, and the banter the two had together after all the issues that arose.

But I'm ANGRY. Angry about the other characters, angry about all of the blame being foisted on Colby CONSTANTLY for things that aren't her fault, and angry at other (probably heterosexual) reviewers.

So let's start with the other reviewers issue first: some of you are homophobic. That's it. That's just the way it is. If you say in your review that you were disappointed at how fluffy and happy the lesbian main character ended this book being, you have some deep seated homophobia issues you need to address, please and thank you, before you review books with characters who are diverse. If you are writing about diverse characters and think that them ending up happy is unrealistic, you need to address that and understand that that kind of mindset is problematic as fuck. I got so angry reading reviews for this. The only reason I liked some of them was because it reassured me that I wasn't going to end this book in tears, hurting as yet another LGBT+ character ended up with a miserable fucking ending. I'm not naming names, and this is general to everyone who still continues to find happy endings for diverse characters unrealistic. Good day.

Now onto the treatment of our main character Colby at the hands of literally.... 90% of the other characters in this book? Besides her dad, who recognises the problems he makes and apologises and him and Colby end up happy, and the other adults, who recognise Colby is struggling and needs support and try to give her that support however she needs it. No, the 90% is the other people, Colby's friends and ex girlfriend and current girlfriend, who just seem to blame Colby for EVERYTHING.

Let's start with the smaller blaming issue with Amelia. This is going to be spoiler-y, I apologise, you can skip over the rest of this review if you want because there will be spoilers from here on out.

Amelia begins dating Colby just over halfway through the book. She is not out to her parents, and Colby understands that. Rachel was also not out, but let's leave Rachel till later. Colby, coincidentally, is ALSO not out to her family, because she's scared to, but she never actually tells Amelia that. Amelia actually finds out listening in on a conversation between Colby and her dad over the phone, where Colby calls Amelia her 'friend' after panicking that her dad might find out. And Amelia fucking rips into her. Amelia, who is scared to be out, rips into Colby, who is also not out, for.... not being out? The 'friend' thing hurts, sure, but Amelia tells her parents that Colby is a study partner, so why is it played out like Colby's done something worse than Amelia's been doing their whole relationship up until that point?

Colby breaks up with Amelia, angry and hurt at this turnaround, and Amelia is upset, but, really. How is it not justified? Why was Colby made out to be in the wrong and the only one to apologise to Amelia in the end, like Amelia didn't judge Colby for the exact same thing Amelia was doing anyway? I can't remember Colby ever belittling Amelia for being 'in the closet', and it really was shit that Colby was the only one to apologise.

Now let's get on to RACHEL. Ohhh boy. I hated Rachel. Absolutely loathed her. Let me pose you this hypothetical scenario: girl is dating girl in secret. Girl is in love with girl, but is scared to tell her. When girl is finally accepting this love, secret!girl breaks up with her because she doesn't think other girl is as into studying (another thing I'll get into later) and thinks girl is dragging her down. Okay, you with me? Now our main girl goes into school, days after having her heart broken, and what does she see? Secret!girl holding hands with a boy she's most definitely been talking to/dating for a while without telling anyone, and now secret!girl is in a relationship and isn't ashamed of it, like she seemed to be with our main girl.

That's what happens between Colby, our main girl, and Rachel, our secret ex-girlfriend, who everyone fucking knew was dating Colby anyway. You know what the icing on the heart-break cake is, though? Rachel invites the new boyfriend into the LGBT+ group, a safe space for Colby, and ultimately forces Colby out of the group because she's too frustrated and angry to be around her NEWLY EX-GIRLFRIEND AND THE BOY HER EX WAS PROBABLY SEEING ANYWAY! Now, I'm all for characters dating whomever they want- I'm bi, I can roll with it. But the evidence suggests Rachel was already with Michael (?) while she was keeping Colby a secret, which was absolute shit, and then she forces Colby out of the spaces she feels safest, which is even shittier.

And everyone blames Colby for it. Colby is angry and avoids Rachel and Michael, is sarcastic about the two, and everyone makes out that Colby is petty and bitchy and needs to get over it. Get over the girl she's in love with and been dating in secret for months immediately, only to find out that said girl is already with a new boyfriend and inviting him to everything that Colby was actively involved in without considering Colby's emotions? It's BULLSHIT. Absolutely BULLSHIT, and it made me furious. Rachel never apologises, only makes excuses for why she prefers Michael and why Colby was bad for her, and it made me furious.

The reason only made me angrier. I can understand breaking up with someone if they are obsessive and only want you to focus on them, not your studies. Instead, because Colby is failing in school and not as academic- something that isn't awful, some people aren't into academics and should never be made to feel shitty if they aren't good in school- Rachel breaks up with her. She constantly tries to say that because Colby is bad in school, she had to break up with her and date Michael instead. I just... what. Literally. What. It made me so, so angry, and I wish there was a sequel where Colby could punch Rachel and Michael in the face, and show she can be happy without going to College, and have Amelia apologise to her for making her feel bad about not being out. Colby is flawed and angry, sure, but she didn't deserve what the others put her through. Her best friend making her out to be the bad guy with Amelia and Rachel didn't help either.

So yeah. That's my angry ranting over with. If I offended anyone, sorry, but it had to be said. There's so much lingering homophobia in the book community and writing about diverse characters not deserving happiness, and I'm so so tired of it.

Profile Image for siyao.
16 reviews
March 27, 2017
i thought a novel about a gay girl adopting a three legged dog and becoming a vet's mentee/daughter figure would resonate more with me but it was just. nice. that's all.
Profile Image for Stephanie A..
2,278 reviews62 followers
December 4, 2017
Boy, it sure would be fun to find a lesbian novel that doesn't involve them peeling off each other's clothes within a month or two of meeting. That pretty much soured me on all of the relationship elements, but on the bright side, I absolutely loved her big three legged dog -- "big and white with black, folded ears and a black patch over one eye," how cute! -- and her well meaning if absent trucker father, as well as her dog-training sessions with the Very Friendly and Charitable Vet.
Profile Image for Angie.
2,326 reviews228 followers
November 12, 2015
Starting From Here is about a gay girl, her three legged dog, and her trucker father. Colby's mother died two years ago, her father is always on the road, she's failing chemistry, and her girlfriend just dumped her for a guy. Then one night, Colby comes upon a stray dog who gets hit by a car, she takes him to the vet, and now she has someone to keep her company at home. But Colby is still failing at school, missing her father, and pushes away a girl who may actually care about her out of fear.

I really enjoyed Starting From Here! I immediately liked Colby, even though she's so different from me. She's quite prickly, so much so that her BFF called her a cactus. But she is. She pushes people away for one reason or another, sometimes hypocritically. But you can definitely tell that she's a good person who's just hurting. The way she immediately takes care of Mo when she finds him is sooo sweet! She's doesn't just dump him at the vet. She takes him home, makes sure he has food, water, toys, and love. She even takes his behavioral training seriously. Colby is just a bit off with people, which is understandable.

Starting From Here has a much stronger focus on Colby's relationship with her dad rather than the budding romance. Colby hates that her dad spends so much time on road, especially because he's doing it so she has a roof over her head and can go to college. Colby just wants her dad home, but those two cannot communicate! She's not even out to him, which she keeps making up flimsy excuses for. I really loved their bonding trip at the end. It was sweet, and nice to see a father-daughter relationship like that.

Starting From Here is really great. It's definitely about the importance of communication, at least that's what I took from it. People say things that they don't really mean, or people hear something totally different than what someone is saying to them, or no one says anything at all, or says the wrong thing. We need to talk to each other! Open and honest communication! And cute dogs. Dogs bring people together,

Read more of my reviews at Pinkindle Reads & Reviews.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
1,742 reviews102 followers
November 24, 2012
This was a different kind of contemporary for me-most of the YA books I read are filled with characters who are economically comfortable if not insanely rich. The biggest worry might be paying for college, certainly a concern in this age of skyrocketing college expenses. But money isn't so much a concern. That is not the case in Starting From Here. Main character Colby lives in a trailer, works a boring job at a grocery store to pay for gas and insurance (having worked at a grocery store, I can confirm that it is often dull), and rarely sees her father as he is always off driving his cab, trying to keep them afloat. I liked that this economic situation kind of shook me up and gave me a different perspective.

In some ways, this could be viewed as a pretty bleak book with Colby in a depression, never recovered from her mother's succumbing to cancer and falling further in when her not-quite-girlfriend Rachel dumps her and gains a boyfriend almost immediately. Colby is also extremely isolated and aching for her father's presence even though she cannot spit out the words. There is so much pain. I just wanted to hug Colby and there is an adult character who tries to reach out to Colby with some bumps along the way. She didn't seem to realize she was loveable and it just broke my heart.

Then Colby rescues a dog and starts flirting with a new girl and things are looking up! But not before more drama. Happily, unlike a lot of LGBT literature, this one ends optimistically. I haven't read very widely in that sub-category but I'm glad to have a book with its bright spots to balance out the darkness. I do tend to prefer happier lighter books than this one but you can rest, knowing that although a lot is packed into this story, it ends with hope.

Overall: A short book but a good one. It's not about starting all the way over; it's about starting from here and making the situation better.
Profile Image for Emily.
443 reviews48 followers
May 9, 2019
Depois de Starting from Here e Drum Roll, Please, a Lisa Jenn Bigelow pode me pedir o que for que eu dou um jeito de dar pra ela.

QUE LIVRO MAIS LINDO. Eu peguei pra ler achando que ia demorar horrores (eu ando bem sem tempo e coragem pra ler, devagar devagarinho) mas, quando eu vi, tinha lido todas as quase trezentas páginas NUM ÚNICO DIA. Fazia muito, muito tempo que eu não conseguia ler um livro tão rápido assim e eu tô MUITO FELIZ que isso aconteceu e que foi TÃO FÁCIL.

Em Starting from Here a gente acompanha a vida da Colby e como ela muda depois que o Mo aparece. Eu já estava 100% apaixonada pelo relacionamento dos dois e a FOFURA QUE ERA TUDO AQUILO, mas a Lisa não fica satisfeita em desenvolver um plot só dum jeito lindo e de repente a Colby tinha que lidar com o melhor amigo tentando resolver a vida dela, o pai caminhoneiro se afastando cada vez mais, a morte da mãe, a ex namorada saindo com um cara, a menina legal do jornal interessada nela e a veterinária do Mo ajudando ela demais. Falando assim parece muita coisa, MAS NÃO É. A Lisa fala disso tudo dum jeito muito natural, muito bonito, e eu só queria ler MAIS E MAIS pra saber o que a Colby (e o Mo) ia fazer.

Eu tô muito feliz com esse livro e como as coisas foram se desenvolvendo . Lisa Jenn Bigelow, conte comigo pra tudo.
Profile Image for Rena.
455 reviews256 followers
September 16, 2012
When I picked up Starting From Here from my post office box, I had no idea it would be so good.

The story surrounds Colby Alicia Bingham, a could-be-better student and bagger at her local grocery store. She's what some would call a lone wolf, especially since her mother passed a year and a half ago and her father truck drives across the country every other week. She thinks she's found happiness with Rachel, her almost girlfriend, but then she dumps her, saying she's not serious enough. Colby's devastated and wallows in her hurt, cutting everyone off except her best friend Van.

Then one day she and Van are simply hunting for aluminum cans by the side of the road, and out darts a stray dog. A white bodied, black eared bull mix that Colby adopts, as she's worried about its safety.

Mo's arrival is right on time, considering Rachel is now in the arms of a dude for crying out loud. Without her dad around, Colby gets unconditional love from the dog she christens Mo, who also brings a new friend in veterinarian Robyn, who patched Mo up when he was at his worst.

Everything is peachy where Mo is concerned. Everywhere else is a mess. Her grades are about to send her to summer school. Seems as if she can't get away from Rachel and her new boyfriend. Van is insistent on playing matchmaker (without Colby's consent). And the one girl she has her eye on could be potentially heartbreaking.

She can't go through that again. Her heart already feels like a pin cushion. One more push might just cause it fall apart.

Starting From Here is a great debut novel from Lisa Jenn Bigelow. Colby is a genuine character who makes mistakes and eventually learns from them and makes amends in the best way she knows how. What else can you ask for?
Profile Image for Andrew.
388 reviews7 followers
October 16, 2012
Teenaged romance is tough, even in the best of times, and life has dealt Colby Bingham a difficult hand. Her mother died of cancer two years ago, her father, a long-haul trucker, is gone most of the time, and her latest crush has broken her heart. How could things get any worse? How about rescuing a stray dog that was struck by a car and needs to have a leg amputated. But that dog turns out to be a gift in disguise, bringing new people into Colby’s life and ultimately helping her find a way forward, albeit not before she plunges a bit further toward despair.

This book captures the agonizing emotions of teenage relationships as well as all the uncertainty that we all seem to have at that age about our lives and what we want from them. Colby’s voice is authentic, and it is easy to put yourself into her shoes, even if you have a different sexual orientation. The author does a terrific job of showing how homosexual teens have the same struggles as any other teens, even when they are complicated by intolerance and bigotry from their families or peers.

This book is an easy read, providing an intimate and emotional look at what it is like to come-of-age as a gay teen in today’s world.
Profile Image for Victoria.
2,512 reviews53 followers
December 5, 2012
I really wanted to like this YA coming of age story. Unfortunately, the only unique thing about the book was the LGBT slant. And though Bigelow handled this aspect of the novel well, I just couldn’t sympathize with the selfish and shockingly immature narrator, Colby. Colby treated friends and family terribly throughout the novel - so much so that the resolution truly surprised me. Only one character called her out on being a raging brat, but it never seemed to sink in at all. There were tender moments between Colby and her rescue dog, Mo (really the only character that she had an unselfish relationship with), and some sweet scenes with her father, but nothing ever redeemed her character to me. Her immaturity and self-centered nature alienated me from the book. If only she had been more likable, this would have been a more enjoyable novel. The minor characters were all a lot more interesting than the childish Colby. The ending felt unbelievable to me based on all of Colby’s earlier interactions with her friends and family. The book was fast-paced though, and certainly engaging - though the narrator made me roll my eyes several times... If only Colby’s character showed more of an arc of true growth, the book might be more satisfying.
Profile Image for bean :).
66 reviews
May 8, 2015
+2 stars for the incredibly supportive Van and the father of Colby, the two characters that had to put up with Colby's tantrum's and whiny little attitude 24/7.

+.5 of a star for the cute dog

-2 stars for the extremely aggravating narrator who DID NOT LEARN ANYTHING throughout the course of this book other than the fact that her father, who's an on-the-road trucker just so he can support HER and pay her way into college, is willing to quit his job for Colby's sake since Colby thinks he's "abandoned her" even though Colby never bothered to communicate these feelings until now. Oh wait. Colby didn't even learn any of that other save the "my dad's quitting his job for me, yay, we'll be a happy family!" part that because she was too caught up in her own little tantrum to actually listen to what her dad was saying. At least, that's the impression I got.

Oh right, and college? Right. Colby puts 0% effort into school because her mom died two years ago and seems to think she's going to college even though she makes no attempt to earn her way there. Meanwhile, Dad's working his butt off for HER. Ugh.

There's so much more I could say, but, pssh, I'll leave it at that.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Mrs. S.
223 reviews14 followers
October 29, 2012
Starting From Here is the story of Colby, whose mother is dead, and whose father is a long-haul trucker who comes home maybe once a week. Her girlfriend broke up with her to focus on school, and Colby's own grades are perilously low. But when she finds an abandoned dog she names Mo, things start to change in Colby's life. Amelia, a cute reporter from the school paper, wants to interview Colby about her dog...and get to know her better. Robyn, Mo's vet, takes an interest in Colby and Mo and tries to befriend them both. But after the experiences she's had, Colby is reluctant to trust any new relationships, and nearly blows everything before she can figure things out.

This is a quiet story, made interesting by Colby's authentically muddled, unsure heart and mind. Colby's voice rang true, and while it's a short book, there are enough small atmospheric details to flesh out Colby's world. I wished it were a little longer--I wanted to see more of Colby and Amelia--but I think the ending is sweet and lovely just as it is.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
1,046 reviews28 followers
March 20, 2013
A good, powerful, entertaining ya novel that shows the gradual shift in our cultural expectations. The protagonist, Colby, is a 16 year old, and she's a semi-out lesbian--and Bigelow has written a book that makes the challenge of Colby's orientation one of many equal challenges in her life, which is a feat that few GLT novels I've read have managed to carry off. Colby's mom died several years ago, and her dad is a long distance trucker; money is tight, school doesn't seem to mean a lot to Colby any more, and her girlfriend has called it quits, leaving Colby zooming from one distraction to another in an effort to cope. A chance encounter with a stray dog becomes a main focus of the book, adding interest and humor to the essentially difficult situation Colby faces. Ultimately, the story is positive and moving, acknowledging the various kinds of love we all (and teens especially) need to get through our daily lives. High quality writing, and a valuable message that doesn't read like a "message" at all.
Profile Image for Jenni Frencham.
1,283 reviews52 followers
January 30, 2013
Colby's mom died of cancer just a couple of years ago. Her dad is a truck driver, so he spends most of his time on the road. At the beginning of this book, Colby's girlfriend breaks up with her, only to show up at school the next day hand-in-hand with a boy. Then, when Colby is picking up cans with a friend, a stray dog chases after them and is hit by a truck. The dog survives, but has to have one of its legs amputated. Colby and her dog are both trying to adjust to life as it is, but the dog is much more successful than Colby.

I don't like the way Colby's ex-girlfriend treated her, but to be fair, Colby treated just about everyone badly - her dad, her best friend, the vet who saves her dog, her new girlfriend, etc. This book was sweet and heartfelt and easy to read, and even though it wasn't a Disney-style story, it did have a satisfying ending: Colby recognizes that she's been a jerk and starts to change, starting from here.
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