Publisher: Mira Ink
Publication Date: August 13th 2015
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Purchase: The Book Depository / Waterstones
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.
It's always difficult when it comes to writing a review for a book that you didn't enjoy as much as you had hoped, especially when a publicist has been nice enough to send you a copy for an honest review. Saying that, I am going to be honest in this review as best as I can, and I have to openly admit that I didn't enjoy this book. That doesn't go to say that there weren't positives in this book, because there were and from the positives I read I did enjoy them. But to say that I almost DNF'd this book three times speaks volumes. Lets take a step back a minute and take a look at the author himself, because his debut Let's Get Lost, in my opinion was a phenomenal novel and I adored it. Unfortunately for Mr Alsaid, I think the unfortunate hype of living up to a great first book was too much, because Never Always Sometimes crumbles in comparison. However, lets take a deeper look into my initial thoughts. So what did I think of it?
The story tells of Dave and Julia, best friends for years who avoid the stereotypical cliche's of high school life. However, as its coming to the end of their senior year they decide to take a leap out of their fellow classmates books and embrace a list of cliche's they made about high school before the even began. Now let me just say, the premise for this book sounded awesome! There were so many stereotypical cliches about high school that I knew I was going to enjoy reading about, and seeing Dave and Julia embrace them was really fun to read about. However, I definitely feel that while this played a very crucial role in the story, not enough time was spent on actually completing the cliches. I understand that dying your hair crazy colours isn't time consuming at all, but attending a cliche beer party? Plenty of opportunities to run crazy with your writing ideas. Unfortunately this element fell incredibly flat, as no sooner had our characters been introduced to the party, not two pages later were they leaving it. At least six hours (if not more) had passed at this party and all I got was whiny description of one character not being able to find another, and oh then they met another character, then time to go home. For such a stereotypical cliche, I would have liked to see the characters fully getting involved in the life and soul of the party, not just having a few drinks and then automatically being drunk and beginning to pine. I think if so much more attention had been paid to some of these scenes then the book would have had greater depth and the overall enjoyment of this book would have been outstanding.
Now as this novel progresses we see the characters attempting these various cliche's. However, the majority of the novel is also centred on the inevitable relationship brought together by our two main protagonists. Dave pines for Julia's love, spends half of the novel obsessing over her and then decides to go for another girl when Julia doesn't reciprocate his affections. Bam, Julia suddenly has an undying love for Dave that she's never before realised, hates on this new girl, causes them to break up and then goes cringingly obsessive. In the end they're right back where they started. Now don't get me wrong, there were elements, SMALL elements about Dave and Julia's friendship that I did enjoy. I enjoyed some of their dialogue - it was witty and amusing. But really, that was about it. I didn't think these characters jelled well together at all and I was questioning why the constant pining obsession over each other wasn't more thoroughly thought out. It was incredibly infuriating to read about. This novel has been described as similar to John Green with the cute budding romance of Rainbow Rowell. First and foremost I hate when popular books are compared, and second of all, the cute budding romance was about as accurate as my thorough enjoyment of this book as a whole - extremely lacking and almost non existent.
I hate to be a downer and constantly degrade a book. For those of you who have read my reviews before, you know I always try to put a positive twist on a review, but it was very difficult with this one. However, saying that the only character that I actually enjoyed in this novel was Gretchen. The 'other girl.' I enjoyed the introduction of her character at the party, her passions for embracing the cliche's in a creative manner and the torture she had to go through in this novel. The only reason I enjoyed her character over every other character in this novel was because I could actually feel empathetic for her. Thanks to Dave and Julia she has to go through some difficult emotions and thats why her character felt so realistic. These are the elements that make up a good character! Gretchen alone was very familiar because it reminded me of the reasons I enjoyed Let's Get Lost - the characters and their progression. It is with deep regret that this book just didn't gain the same reaction from me on this front, which is such a shame because I really wanted to love it. I just couldn't understand Dave's thought process in this book and how he thought any of the decisions he made (besides a few) were okay. Breaking a girls heart because you're pining? You think you have real feelings for a girl but you'll happily bone your best friend on the beach because she's made a single move for the first time since you've known her? Very questionable motives here indeed!
To further my insufferable angst for this book, I really didn't understand the stalking of the teacher. I could understand a crush, I really could. That's been done before in YA lit and it's worked well, but this was far too heavily approached in this novel. I mean stalking a teacher into a bathroom to try and catch him short? Seriously?! I just didn't understand the logical thought in the minds of these characters to even warrant such an idea, let alone form an obsession. What positives I can pull from this are definitely the retribution that this barbaric idea gains at the end of the novel. Seeing the teacher take the higher ground, ignoring all of the sexual attempts and actually genuinely caring about his student really turned this around for me, ever so slightly. It goes back to that idea of certain elements that make up a good character. Retribution is included in there and this was briefly seen in Julia's character towards the end, which gives her a slight bonus point.
So overall I have to admit this book was quite a bit of a let down in comparison to it's predecessor. Adi Alsaid's thought process for some of his characters was quite worrying to be honest, especially with how amazing I thought his character development was in Let's Get Lost. Hopefully this was just a graze in Alsaid's work because the passion he feels for his books really makes me want to pick them up, so hopefully I'll enjoy his next work more than I did this one. I award Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid a 2 out of 5 star rating on my classification scale. Although I'm questioning whether my generous rating is based on pity, I look forward to seeing where Alsaid's work develops from here on out.