Hello Internet. Welcome back for Review #47, and May the 4th be with you. No, I’m not doing a Star Wars novel, I don’t consider many of them canon anyway. Not since Disney… Anyway! Enjoy my rant this week.
Never Always Sometimes had the misfortune of being the bounce-back book I read while still in the rage-haze of Eleanor and Park. So while I was fuming over the shitty ending scene of one of the best Teen Fiction novels I read in a long, long time, Never Always Sometimes is like taking that ending and rubbing shit all over it before ramming it up my nose. Thusly, I thoroughly hated the characterisation, found the cheaply exploited faux-love-triangle angle irritating and compared every character to their more three-dimensional and more interesting E&P counterpart. Also, the style just rubs me completely the wrong way, as if it’s a shitty paper façade of the nigh-poetic prose of Rainbow Rowell. I dislike rating scales, but if E&P was *here*, then Never Always Sometimes would be… *here*.
Gods, is this the part where I have to explain the plot? *sigh*. Alright, so the general idea of this novel is based along the eternal friendzone of High School Best Friends who are clearly and obviously a couple but one half of it fails to see that they are Supposed To Be. So of course, instead of pining over the currently-unavailable-but-nevertheless-inevitable, the second half finds someone else, and then first half realise their mistake, and from that point the end writes itself. It’s been done to death, and will continue to be replicated come the end of time.
Let me pick apart the many narrative techniques this author abuses/fails to mention/fails to deconstruct. Look, I can list them: the really weird and exotic (but white, must be white) feminine half of this unfortunately stereotypically heterosexual (why haven’t I been able to find a proper Big Gay Love Story which deconstructs these romance tropes yet?) focal pair has clear, family-related traumatic pain in their backstory; the adorkable, sensitive and geeky masculine (hardly!) half of this pair is naïve enough to think they know what they’re doing all throughout act two; and the third wheel, being the amazing goddess that they are, completely understands the protagonist’s true calling (by the end of act three, at least) and is completely fin with being left by the side of the road by what is clearly the better person for them.
<<OK Jester, you can breathe in now. Breathing is a good idea.>>
Apart from one of the many voices in my head having to give me some tips on how to breathe, you understand my point. Never Always Sometimes (one of the few titles I would give a DIY sundial with French instructions to when asked for the time of day) is supposed to be about not really subverting American high school romance stereotypes, but looking like it should so it actually does subvert them. Make sense? No, not to me either. In my book, slightly lampshading the tropes one uses while still playing them extremely straight does not excuse said trope’s appearance. So pooh-pooh to that
Never Always Sometimes was published in 2015 by Harlequin Teen. It can be found on Amazon here.
Yours: J.M. Pear