“How do text messages make you feel existential?’
I start thinking about exactly that: how people can edit a thought before sending it out to the world. They can make themselves seem more well-spoken than they are, or funnier, smarter. I start thinking that no one in the world is who they say they are, then my mind goes to how I also edit myself, not just online but in real life, except for those rare instances like right now where I’m ranting- even though that’s a lie because I’ve had this train of thought before and damned if I didn’t tweak it in my head a few times to make it sound better- and then my mind starts racing so furiously I can’t control my thoughts, and I start thinking about robots and wondering if I’m even a real person.”
Title: Never Always Sometimes
Author: Adi Alsaid
Publication: August 4th 2015 by Harlequin Teen
Source: Author signing at ALA
Best friends Dave and Julia were determined to never be cliché high school kids—the ones who sit at the same lunch table every day, dissecting the drama from homeroom and plotting their campaigns for prom king and queen. They even wrote their own Never List of everything they vowed they’d never, ever do in high school.
Some of the rules have been easy to follow, like #5, never dye your hair a color of the rainbow, or #7, never hook up with a teacher. But Dave has a secret: he’s broken rule #8, never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. It’s either that or break rule #10, never date your best friend. Dave has loved Julia for as long as he can remember.
Julia is beautiful, wild and impetuous. So when she suggests they do every Never on the list, Dave is happy to play along. He even dyes his hair an unfortunate shade of green. It starts as a joke, but then a funny thing happens: Dave and Julia discover that by skipping the clichés, they’ve actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even on love.
Before starting this review, I really want to thank Adi Alsaid for what he did at ALA. There weren’t any copies of his book during his set signing time, so what he did was sign a bunch of note cards for all of us who waited in line, and then when we came back the next day he signed a copy. I am so glad I got to meet him, he was so kind and it made me really excited to read his book.
Never Always Sometimes came off as a little bit strange to me, at first, it didn’t quite fit onto what I would like to call my enjoyment scale. Now, it had an amazing premise and I was anxious to dive into it, but I had a hard time getting into it when it first started. The layout was a little strange and slightly difficult to get used to – but towards the ending of the book it considerably improved from what it was like when I had started. I really liked how the ending was unexpected, actually, I loved that part. I really wanted to love the entire thing.
Never Always Sometimes is a story about two friends and their mission not to fit in or conform to what they consider to be the standards of a high school experience. These days, as both characters ironically prove, it is difficult trying to be different when being different is a category in itself. Dave and Julia, the two protagonists of this book, are both the cool, “hipster” type kids that would burn themselves drinking their coffee because they have to do it before it is cool. Both of them think high school is the biggest cliché imaginable, which – when you think about it- it really is. How many of us fantasized over being prom king or queen? Having someone ask you out to a dance in the most romantic, over used fashion possible? Wanted to run for class president or some other office? These are the sort of things that Dave and Julia vow never to do during their four years of high school, until one day everything changes. As the summary explains, Dave and Julia start a pact (which they write down and title the “Nevers List”) right before high school, swearing off participating in any of the “cliché” high school experiences that were just bound to arise. The list goes as follows:
1. Never go skinny dipping
2. Never hook up with a teacher
3. Never be known for the same lunch spot
4. Never go to a party
5. Never pine over someone silently
6. Never throw a party where the invite is simply the word “BEER.”
7. Never date your best friend.
The clichés, as listed above, were really enjoyable. Most of them were some of the things I avoided in high school as well, not that I vowed to avoid them at all costs – I just never got around to doing any of them because I was always far too busy reading. I really loved watching Julia and Dave go through their cliché list, though it started off as more of a joke for them rather than a die-hard mantra, but seeing how they experienced the different events and how hard they tried to make some of them happen was really entertaining.
Now, earlier when I said that the layout was a little strange, what I meant was the way the book was sectioned off into three separate turns of Point of View. The first section of the book is told entirely from Dave’s perspective, which I did enjoy. The second half of the book is then told from Julia’s point of view, and reading her thoughts made me sympathize with her more than seeing her through Dave’s perspective – which, sadly, made me want to rip her hair out. The third section, and this is where I got slightly confused, is told through a combination of both Dave and Julia’s voices. One thing I do have to say about this format, though, is that even though I did not partially warm up to it – it was smart. When the book starts off both Dave and Julia are the same person, and I think that giving each of them a section to go through some sort of character arc before switching to where they have dual narration gave them each a chance to develop some individuality. Otherwise, and this is me being honest, the only reason I would have been able to tell them apart is because Dave emphasized how he stood pulling down his zipper when he went to the bathroom.
I did enjoy both characters, though, I did enjoy Dave more so than Julia. Julia, in my opinion, was a little too focused on being a wild child for me half of the time – but it worked for her character, so I am trying really hard not to hold who she is against her. Both characters were individualistic, Julia having more personality quirks than Dave – though that, once again, only added to who she was as a character. I loved the banter between the two of them, all of their conversations flowed with such a natural and organic style that it truly felt as if they had been friends for years. I loved seeing that, at first the two of them even reminded me of how I am with some of my best friends.
I have to give this book some serious props on a certain aspect. Not only did a main character talk about having to use the restroom, there is even a mention of flushing the toilet and washing his hands afterwards. I know this is probably a silly point to make, but I have never read a book where a main character mentions the fact that they have to go to the bathroom and then actually go through the motions of doing so. Silly, I know, but I still want to give Alsaid some virtual high fives for doing it.
All in all, Never Always Sometimes was a story full of love, loss, and the wonderfully entertaining cliché’s of a typical high school experiences. I really did enjoy this book, and I am so thankful for being granted an advanced copy of it at ALA Annual.