Monday, August 3, 2015

Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid
Release Date - August 4,  2015
Publisher Website - Harlequin Teen
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 320 pages
My Rating - 3/5
**borrowed from a friend for review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Never date your best friend

Always be original

Sometimes rules are meant to be broken

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 die 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.
Best friends. The end of high school. A daring list. Never Always Sometimes seemed to have all the makings of a fun summer read. While there is certainly some cute and vibrant moments, it was the lack of urgency to the story, and the connection to the characters that never quite worked for me.

The characters wind up being rather forgettable, as nothing about them really grabs the reader to make them stand out. Their relationships, outside of the one with each, felt under developed to the point that I never came to care about them. One of the relationships is vital to the novel, and it never clicked into place for me. It failed to transport me into the story in a way that made me invest in the outcome for any of the characters. It's a cute premise, and an unique twist on a familiar story line, but I didn't feel it fully came together the way it could have.

Adi Alsaid has been praised for his writing. There are moments in both this and Let's Get Lost where his talent truly radiates. He captures the emotions that a character would be feeling within a scene using only a few words. I predict he'll continue to grow as a writer with each book he writes. While the emotions being felt came through, I felt at times that instead of using words to show us, they were instead used to tell us. We were told how someone was feeling, instead of being shown. Emotional scenes require that connection to resonate, and in both of his books I've felt that feeling of disconnect.

The crazy, scary, amazing time that is the end of high school is punctuated by a lot of things. Goodbyes impact people in different ways. The characters in this novel make mistakes. They are indecisive. They hurt others. They act impulsively. They grapple with all the changes that are happening. These are all very true experiences. Teenagers do make the mistakes these characters make. It was refreshing to see, and something that Adi Alsaid does perfectly within the story. If this story leaves any lasting impression it's what can happen when we push ourselves outside our comfort zone We can discover that people are not who we think they are. We can discover new sides to ourselves, discover that what we wanted for so long is perhaps not what we need, and that love isn't perfect. It's messy and complicated and that there is more than one way to love someone. These elements of the story were the bright spots in an otherwise average story.

The latter half of the novel was not as strong, or entertaining as the first. There are some pacing issues that are felt towards the midpoint into the end. It, for me, rapidly spiraled into committing a few too many cliches of it's own allowing them to take over the story, while the beginning embraced them and worked with them to create a charm that really worked for the story. The ending does offer up an atypical ending to this type of story but I am not sure the ending felt true to the story, and it felt hurriedly put together. The aftermath of all the events are neatly brushed away instead of being felt and recognized.

A story of embracing cliches, the bittersweetness of moving on and leaving things behind as high school ends, and the rush of possibility that comes from what might be next. While this book didn't quite charm me as much as I'd hoped, I predict others will enjoy it far more than I did.

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