Sometimes Never Sometimes Always – Elissa Janine Hoole
Seriously though, look at that cover, that cover is beautiful!
This was an ARC from NetGalley, so I didn’t actually get to stare at that beautiful cover whilst reading this, which is a shame, but oh well. The paper back is out on November 8th so maybe we’ll all just have to stick it on our Christmas/Hanukkah/ holiday gift list so that we can enjoy the cover in all it’s glory.
Here’s the blurb:
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?
So, Cass is a girl going through an existential crisis. I’m due my annual existential crisis so I think that I’m pretty qualified to judge this book. My existential crisis usually accompanies my birthday, like, I get to the month of my birthday and I think to myself, OH MY ACTUAL GOD. I AM IN MY TWENTIES. I AM IN MY TWENTIES AND I DON’T HAVE A SIGNIFICANT OTHER, I AM IN SHED LOADS OF DEBT I STILL LIVE WITH MY PARENTS I HAVEN’T DONE ANY OF THE THINGS THAT I WANTED TO DO WITH MY LIFE OH GOOOOOD. Cass’s crisis is inspired by an internet meme (one of those survey things that all your friends all do and stick on their tumblrs or send round in emails or whatever) and a Walt Whitman poem which she is supposed to be doing her own version of in English. These things lead her to start questioning who she is and what she does. She comes to the conclusion that she is boring with nothing noteworthy about her. Honestly, Cass has to have the lowest self esteem of any character I have ever come across, she genuinely thinks that she has nothing interesting about her, at one point she even says that she was right to suspect that her bff had just been waiting for her to become interesting. And that’s really sad, like honestly, heartbreakingly sad, because no one should ever feel like they’re dull and to not have any redeeming qualities at all. This is kind of a problem though, because this belief that she is dull in turn makes Cass a bit dull. More on that later though.
This book has an interesting concept, Cass goes to church because its what her parents believe, she paints her nails because its what her bff does, she keeps guinea pigs because her brother rescued them and lets be honest, everyone has a little panic in their lives when they’re trying to figure out who the hell they are. Cass’s answer to this is to get herself a thing, a niche if you will so she turns to tarot cards, which are of course banned by her fundamentalist church, and starts an advice blog where she uses the cards to solve peoples problems. This whole double identity thing would be awesome but it’s not executed that way.
See, the one place that this book fails is the actual telling of the story.
The narration jumps from point to point a bit too fast sometimes, just when things get interesting, suddenly its the next day or after the weekend and that’s a bit frustrating. Also, like Cassandra, this book has no idea what it is and what it’s trying to be. One minute it’s about the fundamentalist church that Cass doesn’t like having to go to, the next it’s about her brother being bullied for being gay, then it’s about cyber bullying. There is too much stuff going on to concentrate on one thing and do it justice. I would have been much more interested in reading about how an atheist would cope being from such a deeply religious family. Also, for me, I’ve not yet found a religion that I can comfortably get into, so I would have been really interested to have read something from the point of view of someone so ingrained into a church and a complete belief in what they were doing. So, that was a little disappointing.
The Drew thing was something I saw coming from a mile off and this was one of my issues with this book. So, Cass talks about hating the bullies at school, she hates the people who bully her brother. This is good, like I mean, if this was about Cass’ religion, it would make a good point, you don’t need to be a fundamentalist christian to have good values and be a good person. Only then Cass herself is a judgemental bitch who judges Kayla for living her life differently to her, who judges the “mean girls”, who makes fun of a girl’s eating disorder by referring to her as a vomit vixen and who blames the main victim of the cyber bulling by saying if she changed who she was then she might not be bullied. No. Just no.
Another problem I had with this: why so yaaay for homosexual men but not women? Lesbians are people too you know (that’s quite good, I might put that on a t shirt)
Each chapter is named after a question in the meme that started Cass’s questioning which I quite enjoyed, as the questionnaire went on, Cass started having things to actually discuss on it and watching her find herself was great, it’s just a shame that the narration didn’t really sit well with me. Like I said, whole days were skipped out, how things made Cass feel was briefly run over. With the discovery of her brother’s bullying, we didn’t get much on how that made her feel, with her first visit to a nightclub in defiance of her parents, we again, didn’t get the wonder and the fear or anything like that which was a shame and would have made this book much more satisfying. I was just waiting for something that felt real and I desperately wanted someone to stand up and save the day.That someone was never going to be Cass herself, but I was hoping that someone would do it. It’s a shame really that the only characters that I actually liked were secondary ones, Darin and Eric were by far the only two people in this story that had anything nice about them in the first place and I think if more was made of Cass and Darin’s interactions with each other or perhaps a bit of the story focusing on Eric’s point of view, would have made this story much more rewarding.
The cyber bullying aspect of this story was incredible, if a little late in the day to be introduced. There are definitely some hidden gems within this novel, but that’s sort of the problem, they’re a bit too well hidden. Still a solid novel though and a quick read that draws you in.