Thursday, July 2, 2015

ARC Review: Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

Title: Never Always Sometimes
Author: Adi Alsaid
Published: August 4, 2015 by Harlequin Teen
(Amazon / 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.

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher at BEA in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

Oh book. I'm really sad that I have to give the old "it's not you, it's me." I wanted to like you, I really did. I had a lot of hope going in. You sounded like my kind of contemporary read, you had a lot of really great reviews, I was excited. You even started off really good but then you just lost me.

Perhaps my hardest thing to explain about this book is the characters and my thoughts about them. You guys know me, I like unlikeable characters, the whinier the better. I don't really need to like the characters to be invested in their struggle or understand their motivations. They just need to be realistic and I will be okay with it. In the case of the characters in Never Always Sometimes they definitely were a little tropey (Julia felt like a Manic Pixie Dream Girl which I always hate and David felt like the typical Boy Next Door) but they still felt realistic. They were real teenagers. They made mistakes and were impulsive but they they were also funny and quirky. I should have been on board. And for the first half of the book I was. But as the plot developed I didn't feel like the characters learned anything from their mistakes. There was an attempt to resolve the consequences of their poor actions but I it felt a little sudden and therefore unsatisfying to me.

But I think that may have just been me.  I made that fateful error where I compared this book to another book, one that I loved. I know you're not supposed to do that, it always creates issues for me when that happens. But I did it and it happened and I can't go back. I wanted this to be more of a coming-of-age story. Which is why I really enjoyed the first half of the book. The synopsis mentions a list of things the characters never wanted to do and then they decide that they are going to try them. This attempt to do things that they never expected, things that are "popular" and "cool" was leading to a lot of character developments and breaking of their barriers and perceptions of society and others. It was fantastic and I was invested. And then about halfway through the book that changed and the book became more about the romance.

Probably the most frustrating thing about this book for me was the romance. Now I tend to be a little overly-critical when it comes to romance. I'm not a big fan of books that are just romances and I don't miss something if there is no romance. I do however think that romance can take away from a book. In the case of Never Always Sometimes I was once again, halfway through my opinion changed. I was actually enjoying the romance. The main character meets a really great girl who he has a lot in common with and they start a relationship, what could go wrong? Well, a love triangle. I smelled it a mile away and when the love triangle kicked in halfway through the book the romance just stopped working. I'm not diametrically opposed to love triangles. I can think of a good handful of them where I thought it worked, it's not a dealbreaker for me. But in this case I just didn't feel connected with the other side of the relationship. And when the MC finally picked a person, while I should have been happy with their choice, it still didn't seem to work for me. I know a lot of people did really enjoy the romance in this book, just for me it didn't work.

I think part of that was because I feel like one thing that YA contemporaries in particular are missing is stories of friendship, especially friendships between guys and girls. This could have been a really great book about two best friends who have each other's backs and know each other inside and out. It could have been a great book about these characters who help one another learn, grow, and evolve. Who help one another to break out of their comfort zones and learn from these experiences. But that's not what happened here. It ended up being a contemporary romance and that's not usually my thing. I know a lot of people loved this book so if you are into contemporary romances in the vein of John Green and Stephanie Perkins then check this out.

I give Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid a 7 out of 10

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. Like I said, it's not you it's me. Unfortunately I'm just so picky about my contemporary YA reads and this one just wasn't my kind of read. It started off really strong and for me it just kind of fizzled out. It reminded me a lot of John Green in both it's tone and characters so if you are a fan of his work or if you are looking for YA romance then check this one out.


  1. Nooooooooooooooooooo, love triangle! *makes sign of cross*

    Sigh. I don't hate contemporary romance as much as you do, so I'll probably still like it, BUT I hate love triangles and how they tend to work out and steal focus from the cooler stuff (aka the plot). So that'll probably drive me nuts. I think someone should write that book about guys and girls being friends and evolving and not making out. (You? ;P )

    Sarcasm & Lemons

    1. I don't hate contemporary romance! Actually, I probably do. And yes, that love triangle drove me totally nuts. It was almost like it was two different books. The coming of age boy/girl friendship one and the love triangle romance one. I wish it had just decided to be one or the other.