"Seventh grade after he got the braces off.”
Quick review for a quick read. Honestly, it wasn't as if I disliked "(Never) Again" for its intentions or writing. Theresa Paolo knew how to move through the narrative's story and knew how to get into Liz's mindset as she toggles between her present life and the past as a former lover comes back into the picture after leaving her in a world of hurt.
But, and this is a big but, much of this story came across on a very surface level. A lot of the conflict really felt unexplored for emotion and while the events should've been jarring and connected with me, they didn't. Liz came across with a shallow perspective and while I could understand that's part of personality and lending to her circumstances, I think that prevented me, alongside the delivery of events in this novel, from completely connecting with it.
Liz thought she'd gotten over Zach when he was her first love and disappeared without so much as a goodbye. But now he's back and Liz is furious and wants nothing to do with him. She has a boyfriend (Joe), she has a new plan for her life (didn't get into her dream university, settled for another), she has new hobbies (quit baking, which was a passion of hers, but she left it by the wayside when Zach left). But Zach starts connecting with her friends, and somehow trying to make himself a part of her life, and Liz is having none of it.
Except that she is. She learns the real reason why he left, and neither one of them have gotten over the other. I feel like there were too many "convenient" circumstances in this novel to make Liz and Zach's relationship work (Joe's growing distance, Liz and Zach bonding over a tragedy that befalls Liz's brother, everyone pretty much telling Liz that Joe is bad for her, etc.) That's the reason why I didn't connect, something about it just didn't feel natural to me, and I couldn't believe in it beyond what was essentially a formulaic story.
It was a quick read, and I'll say that I saw where the narrative was going and it's a bit better structured than some novels I've come across in this genre, but in the end, it needed far, far more to carry it.
Overall score: 1.5/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Intermix.
I must admit that I approach the NA genre with a bit of trepidation. Sometimes it knocks my socks off and other times it’s tepid at best. When done well, a NA story will have a depth of emotion/angst, uncertainty and engaging protagonists who are learning to deal with adult life situations for the first time. And then there are the ones that come across as narcissistic, melodramatic and shallow. For me, (Never) Again falls into that latter category. It wasn’t particularly bad, it just wasn’t particularly interesting, either. It took me awhile to get through this book because I kept putting it down. Finally, I forced myself to stick with it and muscled through to the end. I didn’t find anything new or compelling here.
The overall tone smacked a tad young and immature for an NA. Granted the characters were only 18 and had just entered college so that could have been a factor. Perhaps I just prefer my NA characters to be a bit older, further along in college/life and not quite so green and naive. Liz barely seemed able to function in the world just yet–at least not without a lot of help. The narrative had this odd way of dropping in random facts and character insights at the oddest times. Examples follow. Liz threw a decorative pillow at Zach, “but being an ex-state champion baseball player he caught it before it hit him.” Now, I don’t know. I’m not an athlete by any definition of the word, but I’m pretty sure I could catch a throw pillow when it’s tossed at my head. In another scene, Liz and Zach were playing a round of tag in a hotel room and Liz observed to herself that “Zach was quick–it was something his dad was proud of. Unfortunately, being quick hadn’t been enough for him to make the football team…” ?? I understand the need to integrate background information about a character into the narrative, but what did those tidbits have to do with anything in their respective scenes? Why was Liz telling us that Zach’s dad, who didn’t even factor in the story as anything other than an off-page presence, was proud of Zach’s quickness? Providing character background like this sticks out.
It was difficult for me to relate to Liz. On one hand she seemed nice enough. On the other, her self-absorbed melodrama turned me off. It is clear that Liz didn’t know who she was outside of the influence of those around her...
Read the full review at The Book Pushers: http://thebookpushers.com/2013/12/12/review-never-again-by-theresa-paolo/
I won't write a review for this because I have wayy too many to write and I am not good at juggling.
So I shall sum this book up in a single word (and gif).
Oh and yes this was an AWESOME NA so I've finally had my break through (although Defiance was kind of like it.. but nevermind that I love this book too much). I am probably going to re-read it :P