I read three new young adult fiction releases this past week, and thought a three-fer review post would be fun! Here’s a quick look at what I read and what I thought.
In 2012, David Levithan published his remarkable novel Every Day (review), about a teen named A who awakens each day in a different body. A carries A’s consciousness into each body, but experiences life as a series of “day in the life” moments belonging to whoever the body’s owner is. This is normal for A, until A meets and falls in love with Rhiannon. This seemingly impossible and complicated set-up makes for an amazing read, complete in itself.
But here we are in 2015 with Another Day, which tells the same story and presents the same set of events, but as experienced by Rhiannon. I was skeptical at first: Do we really need another version of the same tale? Short answer: Yes. Another Day is much more engrossing and moving than I would have expected. Rhiannon ponders the dynamics between body and self, questions her own motivations and feelings, her own sense of attraction and repulsion in regard to each of A’s appearances, and finds herself forced into decisions that have no right answer.
I love David Levithan’s writing, pretty much always, and Another Day is no exception. The story is wonderful, and the writing is beautiful in its rhythms and use of language, yet also feels true to teen hearts and minds. The ending seems to beg for a follow up, and I do hope that the author is planning another installment in this fascinating story.
If you like your YA light and airy, then Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between might be the book for you! This is actually a fitting choice for this time of year, a quintessential back-to-school reading selection. Hello tells the story of Clare and Aidan as a “one magical night” type of tale: We spend the night, from early evening until the next morning, watching Clare and Aidan’s final night together after a two-year high school relationship, as each prepares to leave for college in the morning. Clare and Aidan live near Chicago, but Clare will attend an East Coast college and Aidan will be at UCLA.
All summer long, they’ve been debating whether to stay together or break up before leaving for school, with Aidan wanting option 1 and Clare advocating for option 2. It’s not that they don’t love each other; they do. But neither can be sure that staying together is the right thing to do. Is it better to end things now, on their own terms, than risk a slow fizzling out as they become involved in their own, separate college lives? What if they meet other people? What if they don’t, but miss out on key college experiences because their minds are too wrapped up in their long-distance romance?
Clare and Aidan spend the night visiting old hang-outs, best friends, scenes of memorable firsts, and “everything in between”, looking to both capture memories and come to an agreement before the sun rises and they go their separate ways. Even though the couple is dealing with heart-ache and sadness, there’s still an element of excitement and looking forward — plus family drama, as each character’s relationship with parents has an impact on their choices and how they feel about their chances as a couple.
I liked Hello, but thought it was a little too simplistic in presenting the options available to Clare and Aidan. They’re fun characters with good hearts, but I’m not sure the situation warrants quite as much drama as they infuse into it. This is a nice, light read, super quick and easily digestible. It didn’t make much of a deep impression on me, but it did keep me entertained all the way through.
Wow. This book left me reeling, in ways I didn’t even imagine. Everything, Everything is the story of Maddy, a teen girl with the rare immune disease SCID who’s lived her entire life in the hyper-protected, safe environment of her completely sterilized and filtered home. She never goes out, never sees anyone in person except her mother and her nurse, spends her time attending school via Skype and reading tons of books. And then one day, Olly and his family move next door, and Maddy’s world is rocked. What if she could make a friend? What if she did want something besides what she has? From waving window to window to email and IM chats, Maddy and Olly become friends, and then more, until Maddy feels ready to risk everything, even her life, to really take a chance at living.
I thought I knew what to expect, more or less, when I started this book, but I was wrong. First of all, the narrative voice is completely charming. Told in the first person by Maddy, the narrative strikes the exactly right chord of cleverness, humor, and curiosity tinged with innocence. Maddy has literally done nothing and been nowhere, so everything she sees and experiences is a first for her. The author captures the wonder of all of Maddy’s firsts, as well as the suffocation of being alive without really living her own life. While the Maddy/Olly romance develops quickly, it’s not insta-love. They get to know each other as people first. Each has baggage and fears, but they find a way to connect that’s touching and feels real and deserved.
The ending (or, the last 20%, according to my Kindle) absolutely threw me for a loop and was not what I expected at all. It’s powerful and emotional (okay, yes, there were even tears), and went in unexpected directions. I’m sure readers will have some heated debates about how things turn out, and I have a feeling this will be a love it or hate it situation — but either way, there’s plenty to discuss!
Throughout the book, I thought the writing was terrific, and I loved the little drawings and diagrams that enliven Maddy’s story, as well as all the email exchanges, messages drawn on windows, and other whimsical visual touches. Maddy is a smart and funny character, and I loved seeing her think about her life, her family, and her future. This book pulls off the tricky task of piling on the emotional impact while keeping a sense of quirkiness and laughter. Everything, Everything is a book that should really appeal to teen readers, and adults will love it too!