GIVEAWAY ALERT:Be sure to look for details towards the end of this post about how to win your own hardcover copy of Adi Alsaid’s newest YA novel Never Always Sometimes.
Book Synopsis (Taken from Harlequin website):
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.
Interview with Adi Alsaid (Author of Never Always Sometimes and Let’s Get Lost)
Author Photo, credit: Peter Ross
Initial Key: BR=Bibliophile’s Reverie; AA=Adi Alsaid
1). BR: Even though this is a bit of a conventional question, what sparked the idea for this story?
AA:Well, it began specifically with the Nevers list itself, but the bigger idea that I wanted to write about was two friends who have distanced themselves from everyone else in high school putting themselves in a place where they start to re-evaluate things. Late in your teens, you really start to wonder not just who you are, but what your place in the world is too. I wanted to write a story that dealt with the above, and with loving someone quietly, and was funny.
2)BR: Is the process of writing a sequel any different than writing your first novel, are there any new challenges along the way?
AA:Well, I don’t exactly know about a sequel per se, since both mine are stand alones. But the easy answer for me here is that the big difference between book one and two was the deadline. LGL was more relaxed and longer compared to NAS’s six-week first draft deadline. There’s also a bunch of doubts you have about whether people will like it as much as your first, whether there are themes or characters that are too similar, whether people will think that you can only write one kind of book. But those doubts kind of exist all the time for writers, in one iteration or another.
3). BR:Your first novel Let’s Get Lost, a big favorite of mine, involved different smaller stories with one unifying theme? While the way of telling this story is different, did this different structure come naturally with the story?
AA: Thanks! Yeah, I really loved the idea of telling a road trip story from the point of view of those who are stationary. That was there from the beginning, partially because I loved how it turned my main character into a mystery, and partially because I love multiple perspectives and thought a road trip was particularly well-suited to delve into several points of view.
4. BR:What type of research, if any, was involved with Never Always Sometimes?
AA:I coach basketball at a high school here in Mexico, so I took advantage of having teachers for friends and sat in on a bunch of classes. I knew NAS was going to be significantly more high school-y than LGL (which had practically zero high school scenes), so I wanted to remind myself what it felt like to be in a classroom, wanted to see how teens really act.
5. BR:Who would you love to pick as a director for a film adaptation for either of your books?
AA:Ooh, good question. If it was in my complete control (which it would never be), I’d probably choose a friend. I have several friends who attended film school and work in TV and Film in LA, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t choose the directors among them. Jeremy Cloe comes to mind, whose great feature-length debut Liars Fires and Bears is out on DVD and you should all buy it.
6. BR:What are you working on next?
AA:I can’t quite announce anything yet, sorry! Soon, though, I hope.
7.BR:Do you have a message for the devoted readers of this blog, A Bibliophile’s Reverie?
AA: How about this quote from the story Light of Lucy by Jane Mcafferty: “One life, he wanted to call to her, you got one life and this is one night in that one life, and your nights are numbered. Do you care? Do you not grasp that life could be more like the movies if only you got out of your stupid car and opened your heart, not wide, not with any degree of trust, or, hell, even interest, but rather like you open the front door for the cat, just enough for the animal to slink through into the open air?”
Thanks so much Adi Alsaid for your thoughtful answers to the questions above! Read further on, for my thoughts on the book, along with details as to a special giveaway.
In YA fiction, the teen tone is a hard one to capture, there is a certain unmeasured combination of irreverence, caprice, and melodrama, tempered with a serious desire to explore those new things in life that you’ve always longed to experience for yourself. It’s not an easy tone to capture at all, and sometimes, this artificial, contrived quality is caught on by teen readers themselves first, and most adult fans of YA fiction (for which I consider myself among many) as feeling suspect, or sycophantic. Well, the first thing that struck me about author Adi Alsaid’s first book, Let’s Get Lost, was his ability to accurately capture the teen tone with just the right degree of apathy, earnestness, mixed with subversive humor. The book was a fantastic, compulsively readable book that I probably should have written a review for, but time got the best of me, and for some reason, I never got around to writing a review of it.
Well, I am fortunate that I was offered his second release Never Always Sometimes then for review, and I knew before even reading it, I was in for a very engrossing, clever read with just the right degree of bantering, well-formulated teen drama, and accurate insight into the uncanny world of the teen vantage. This book swept me into that world of my own- the many strange memories I have of being a teen, and all the momentous emotional experiences, along with the bizarre, irreverence that accompanies all that everyone does as a teen. Adi Alsaid writes with a great eye on the world, as seen through the teen vantage in this new story, featuring two very different perspectives; that of the lead characters of the more introverted, cautious character of Dave, along with his best friend Julia, who is conversely more outspoken, impetuous, and sometimes immoderately rebellious. Their dynamic is rich, and it is what keeps the novel fresh, interesting, and vibrant for a good course of the novel. Another thing that I really appreciated was that their perspectives could clearly be differentiated from another in terms of writing style and tone, Julia had a much more acerbic, cynical tone about life, whereas Dave was striving to work against that cynical tone that his life has been beset with, due to his long friendship with Julia, and he tries instead to see the depth of the supposed cliches that define everyone else, but him and Julia.
If you were ever a teen, you know that the deep insecurities really do paint the world outside of yourself in a superficial sepia tone, so I really appreciated that this large element of the story’s internal conflict for both characters was again very familiar, as someone that can recollect pretty clearly about things remembered from being a teen. And that’s the reason adult readers really shouldn’t be abashed fans of YA fiction, for YA fiction can be a very meaningful, interesting experience for us, it helps make us more aware, less insular, as to those seemingly forgotten memories of our past days. This was the element I really thought was strongly present throughout this novel, the fact that Adi Alsaid is a writer that never has to contrive, or create an artificial teen tone and world, for the world he creates is starkly realistic, and as flawed and sometimes as potently irreverent as the world seen through the lenses of a teen.
All novels has some flaws, and there were certain things that I found detracted a bit from the story’s flow as a whole. Sometimes, there were certain plot points that felt perhaps too silly and absurd to be realistic. I especially found the parts, concerning Julia jokingly hitting on an older Math teacher, just to be a bit unrealistic, and I’m not sure these moments really fit well with the rest of the novel. Other things that I found lacking concerns Dave’s character, in that sometimes there isn’t enough depth and intrigue behind his character, as compared with that of Julia. I found Julia to be the most strongly-written character in the whole novel, in that the author really captures a very spunky, complex female character, who has an awesome, richly funny snarky tone from her perspective. Her dialogue was the richest as well, and perhaps that is intentional, as she is a very different sort of personality than the more introspective character of Dave. The contrast was great, it was good to have more characters that were strikingly different from Julia, who were more on the side of preserving normalcy. Beyond that, sometimes the plot sags a bit at times due to certain scenes that aren’t executed as well as others. Most of the time, the writing, though, has prose that is appropriately minimalist, while still being very appealing. The perspective of second-person is frankly a pretty difficult, sometimes awkward perspective choice, which I’ll admit sometimes detracts a bit from the otherwise smooth flow of the narrative. Nonetheless, it stays fairly smooth throughout, and most of the time, you don’t realize the type of perspective it is using for a good portion of the novel because it’s done well enough to create for a seamless reading experience.
Really, the strengths of this book outweighed the few setbacks, as the writing is clear, descriptive, and creates for a very compulsively readable novel. In terms of YA fiction, it really adds more depth to certain elements and tropes that sometimes aren’t used as wisely in other YA novels. The novel commendably really has a strong grasp on the teen tone, which is exceedingly hard for any writer, even the experienced writer, to really grasp. YA fiction is a misunderstood genre, and it’s certainly not one of the easiest genres to write. Another thing I really appreciated was the fact that Julia’s two fathers were presented in the novel as completely normal, which shows how far we’ve come in terms of presenting gay characters in fiction. I loved that there is no dour, pitiable tone to presenting them; no self-loathing; no Will/Grace type over-the-top stereotypes. They are simply normal parents, struggling with raising a teenage child, who goes through the same mood shifts and patterns as any other teen. In 2015, it is always really nice to realize that gay characters within novels are becoming a perfectly natural feature in YA fiction, where there is no insidious implications that it’s an aberration of sorts. They face the same struggles as every other parent within the book, and I loved also the equality in terms of the type of feelings both male and female teen characters experience over romance. Both can equally pine for one another in their own unique ways, not entirely defined or restricted by their gender. That’s what I normally love about this type of fiction when done right, in that male and female characters can be shown to have the same potential for melodramatic, stormy emotions, as we are wired to be that way, especially when you’re a teenager.
For the most part, the novel was very enjoyable, very funny at times, and it was really a trip down memory lane at points, remembering the funny, irreverence of the teen years, along with the melodrama. Adi Alsaid reminds me why Young-Adult fiction is such a fun, entertaining, sometimes intelligent genre that really is often misunderstood by many within the book world. If you’re looking for an enjoyable read for end-of-the-summer that will be equally entertaining to both adult fans/teen fans of YA fiction, then you should definitely check out Adi Alsaid’s newest YA fiction novel, Never Always Sometimes.
GIVEAWAY DETAILS: A large element of Never Always Sometimes plot was the fact that both Dave and Julia were trying to complete certain strange, bizarre acts that completely defy the laws of civility, when you’re a teenager. They made the list in their freshman year- a list of “dares,” that they thought they would never do, until the last pair of weeks before the end of their senior year.
To enter to win a hardcover copy of Never Always Sometimes (a contest open only to those in the US, unfortunately), leave a comment below, saying something you could have envisioned yourself daring to do in your teen years that would have realistically be labeled a “never” on your never list. The contest will end at 11:59pm. this Saturday, August 29, 2015. At that time, I’ll be sure to email the winner, informing them that they have won. Best of luck to all the readers of this blog, planning to enter.