Saturday, February 13, 2016

What we're reading: Romance

I picked up Never Always Sometimes, by Adi Alsaid, last week, because I liked the cover, the title intrigued me, it's gotten some buzz in the reviewing journals, and I thought the premise was a good one. The premise is, “No point in living a life less ordinary if you don’t know what the other side looks like." Where it comes from: At the beginning of high school, best friends Dave and Julia promise one another that they absolutely will not turn into high school cliches--they are determined to remain individuals. To this end, they make a "Nevers" list of things that they agree to shun (everything from purposely not having a lunch "spot" to avoiding the prom). Then, near the end of their senior year, Dave comes across the list again and shows it to Julia, and they decide that it might be fun, during these last few months of high school, to wholeheartedly embrace all the things they've been avoiding for the past four years, just to see what they're like.

One of the things on the list (since this is, after all, teen romance) is "never date your best friend," and of course Dave has been in love with Julia (although he has successfully hidden it from her) since he met her. Which violates one of the other nevers, "Never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school." And you can imagine where things go from there...sort of.

Can you say that you liked the characters in a book but hated how the author made them act? Can those two things be separated? I really enjoyed Dave's and Julia's personalities and, from the way they talked and bantered, I had a real sense of them as people. But I felt like the author then made them do stuff that wasn't genuine to their characters, and it made me dislike them and wish for the book to be over. I kept thinking, "No matter where he goes with this, I'm not going to be happy," and I was right. I thought, when things first started to go sideways, that perhaps he was being ironic, but no. Which was amply proven by the way he chose to wrap up the book.

I wavered between two and three stars out of five; maybe 2.5 would be about right, because it was slightly better than okay, because of the writing and characterizations; but no more than that, because I can't say I really liked it, without a lot of caveats. Maybe a teenager would like it better? Someone read it and tell me!



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