December 23, 2013

Review: Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always

The title of this novel—as well as that cover—intrigued me. After reading the novel, I don’t see the connection between these two things and the novel itself, and I feel like I’m missing something important.

Do you ever feel that way about a cover and/or title? It seems there’s no cohesion between them? That is what happened for me with this book; however, as a whole I enjoyed the storytelling element.

Title: ‘Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always’
Author: Elissa Janine Hoole
Pages: 349
Publisher: Flux
Available: NOW
Source: requested from Netgalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

Cassandra fears rocking the family boat. Instead, she sinks it. Assigned by her English teacher to write a poem that reveals her true self, Cassandra Randall is stuck. Her family's religion is so overbearing, she can NEVER write about who she truly is. So Cass does what any self-respecting high school girl would do: she secretly begins writing a tarot-inspired advice blog. When Drew Godfrey, an awkward outcast with unwashed hair, writes to her, the situation spirals into what the school calls "a cyberbullying crisis" and what the church calls "sorcery." Cass wants to be the kind of person who sticks up for the persecuted, who protects the victims the way she tries to protect her brother from the homophobes in her church. But what if she's just another bully? What will it take for her to step up and tell the truth?

My Thoughts:

Hoole really jammed a lot into the 349 pages, almost too much for me to keep up with by novel’s end. The storytelling of this novel felt personal, as if Hoole herself has lived this life, or knows someone who has.

Cassandra has been raised in a conservative household, one that begins each morning with a prayer circle before the kids head off to school. There is just one problem: Cass is no longer a believer. She hasn’t been for some time, but she keeps up the façade for her parents’ sake.

A single gift changes everything: a $20 bill given to her by her brother. She finds herself in unknown territory, the mall, and a bookstore. She walks in with no expectation but walks out with a tarot deck. Her curiosity is peaked. She lives in a conservative household and is a member of the most conservative church in her area. This is absolute blasphemy. But she takes out the deck, and her life changes instantly.

And not necessarily for the good. She finds herself in sticky situations that she would usually not be in—and she finds herself being overly secretive and lying to her parents. This is pretty normal teenage behavior, but not in a household like Cass’.

Once Cass starts a blog posing as a fortune teller, her whole life seems to spiral out of control into a mess of cyber-bullying and a deteriorating friendship. But if that is not enough, add in a strained parental relationship, a gay brother trying to figure out his life, and first “love” for Cass.

I felt the author gave readers too much to juggle in this novel. There were too many other stories to tell, not just Cass, and she really should have been the focus.

With that said, I do think this novel is worth reading. Hoole really deals with several teen issues, but the most important one is being true to one’s self. We see a glimpse of that message through Cass’ English teacher, a man who just wants her to write a poem celebrating herself—something she cannot seem to do.

This is where Cass’ woes come into play, and the novel is about her self-discovery. But the sprinkling of too many other elements made it hard for me to focus on just her and her self-discovery.
I would’ve enjoyed the novel more if the focus had been kept on her struggle with her family and her faith. I felt I wasn’t ever able to connect with Cass because she was all over the place in her life, and I know this is a truth with teens today, but I like my realistic fiction novels more focused in plot.

If you’ve read Melissa Walker’s ‘Small Town Sinners’ and enjoyed it, you will enjoy this. If you read this novel and enjoyed it but have not read Walker’s tale, you should.

What’s the most interesting realistic novel you’ve read lately?

Comment below and let’s talk about books.
Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

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