*We Were Liars is my favourite stand-alone of all-time and the fact that I get to review E Lockhart’s new book before it comes out is completely insane to me, so THANK YOU Hot Key Books for sending me an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review*
If you saw my most anticipated reads of 2020 post, you’ll know that this was one of the books I was most excited for this year. So I’m really excited that it lived up to my (maybe unfairly high) expectations.
I have never been so captivated by an author’s writing style as I am by E. Lockhart’s. ‘Again Again’ returns to the style of writing- somewhat poetic, metaphorical and at the same time, often very simplistic- that she uses in ‘We Were Liars,’ and it is a style that never fails to impress me.
This story is about Adelaide and a summer spent at Alabaster Prep, navigating through life in a variety of different ways and discovering who she truly is and what she is looking for from life. The different paths that her life takes in this time vary from minutely different to entirely life-altering as she finds herself falling in and out out love, grief and happiness in a variety of scenarios.
The content of this story is incredibly simple and realistic, to the point that it maybe shouldn’t have been as captivating as it was, but I found myself desperately turning the pages to keep going and find out what happened next. I cared about every alternative possibility as much as the first and found that the changes between universes were perfectly timed to keep me interested. I also found that the short chapters and ‘parts’ of this book kept it very fast-paced and easy to read.
In terms of the setting, I was thrilled when I realised that it’s the same school that appears in ‘The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.’ The various subtle references to this book reminded me that this is a setting that has been explored before and that I am now desperate to revisit. And the characters, though obviously entirely different to those in Lockhart’s other book, fitted into this setting very well.
This book is very intelligent in a lot of ways, but I think I was most impressed by the character development, which was certainly one of the most important parts of the story. Although I found the majority of the characters to be fascinating, Toby resonated very strongly with me. His voice is so clear, even in short message threads, and when he speaks about how he feels about his former self, it is raw and believable to the point that it is almost painful to read. Adelaide herself similarly speaks with raw honesty and it makes her one of the most accessible protagonists I’ve ever read. When Adelaide falls in love in this story, you can’t help but believe that it’s real. And when she realises her mistakes, you realise them too. I felt very much in tune with her, as though I was living her story, rather than just reading it.
There are so many words I could use to describe this book that I find it difficult to sum up. ‘Again Again’ is somehow both beautifully poetic and painfully realistic, with poignant, comedic and heart-breaking moments scattered throughout. I can tell that this is a book that I’ll be forcing everyone I know to read and, despite only finishing it an hour ago, I’m already considering picking it up and starting again.