Had potential, but ultimately came up short…
Author: Adi Alsaid
Genre: Young Adult • Contemporary
Version: Hardback (320 pages)
Publisher: Harlequin Teen (August 4, 2015)
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.
I know what you are all thinking. “Amanda, a YA contemporary? Not exactly your go-to genre.” And you are right. I decided to attempt Never Always Sometimes due to the fact that the author, Adi Alsaid, is going to be attending the Books by the Banks book festival that is taking place in a little over a week. As some of you may know, I’ve been working my way through the confirmed author list and reading as many books as possible before this event. I went into this book with lower expectations, as YA contemporary can be very hit or miss with me. I was hoping for a quick fluffy read in-between some of the heavier books that I favor. Never Always Sometimes has some endearing qualities, but overall didn’t do much for me…
The summer before they start high school, best friends Dave and Julia make a pact to not have a clichéd high school experience. They quickly draft a “Never List” of all the things the vowed to never do while in high school. Flash forward to their senior year, Dave and Julia are still the best of friends about to graduate. With graduation and college looming in the near future, Dave and Julia decide to see what they have been missing out on and turn their “Never List” into a “To-Do List.”
I thought the premise of the book was cute: two best friends participating in all the common high school clichés. I loved the friendship between Dave and Julia. They complimented each other well and had fun no matter what they were doing. When they began to check things off the “Never List,” it was fun and light-hearted, with lots of comical situations. I thoroughly enjoyed the dialogue between the characters, it was witty and entertaining. I may have even laughed out loud on a few occasions. I don’t necessarily think it was realistic dialogue between two high school aged characters, but nevertheless it was clever and well done.
With all that being said, Never Always Sometimes came up a little short for me. I definitely had a few reservations about this book…
I don’t think it is a spoiler to say that I was anticipating this book to include the “best friends turn into something more” trope. From the blurb, you can deduce as much. What I wasn’t anticipating was the love triangle. If you have read my reviews, you know I am typically not a fan of the love triangle trope. Here, I actually think it COULD have worked if the author had done things a little differently. The sad thing is that how things paned out is fairly believable, which makes me cringe. It wasn’t that I was unhappy with the characters that ended up together, but how it all came about. I know this is all super vague, but it is difficult to discuss my biggest hang up with the book without spoiling it.
I also felt there were a few loose ends that were never wrapped up. Specifically, Julia’s relationship with her biological Mom. Throughout the book, Julia struggles with the fact that she wants more of a relationship with her biological Mother, but her Mother is a bit of a free spirit who doesn’t stay in one place for too long. I didn’t really understand why this was introduced, if nothing was to come of it? I was waiting for some kind of epiphany, either that her Mom was going to step up, or that Julia was going to realize that she didn’t need her Mom when she had two Fathers who were all she really needed, but no clarity ever came.
I do have to allow myself to go on a mini rant for a moment. While reading this book, I found myself very annoyed with the repetitiveness of the author in his use of the word “cliché.” If I had to read the word “cliché” one more time, I think I was going to scream. To say this word was overused is an understatement. I understand this was a book about clichés, but reading the word on every page became old very quickly. I wish I had started a tally. I am not even over exaggerating. End rant.
If these things were rectified, I think this would be a much more enjoyable book. The potential is definitely there. I actually think Alsaid’s is a solid writer. His writing is easy to follow, witty, and flowed well. Alsaid’s first book, Let’s Get Lost, has a respectable 3.8 star rating on Goodreads, so there is definitely something there. I would actually like to see what Alsaid could do with something of a little more substance, or for him to cross over into Adult Contemporary. I’ll be keeping my eye on him in the future.
“Human beings are more or less formulas. Pun intended. We are not any one thing that is mathematically provable. We are more or less than we are anything. We are more or less kind, or more or less not. More or less selfish, happy, wise, lonely”
*Somewhere in the range of 2.5 – 3 stars