Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always
Author: Elissa Janine Hoole
Expected publication: November 8, 2013
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?
*a copy was provided through NetGalley for review purposes*
So.. I don't even know where to begin with writing a review for this! I spent a lot of time last night thinking about the book and what I read and what I was thinking and feeling, yet I'm still having a hard time coming up with the words for all of the feels. And let me tell you, Elissa Janine Hoole knows how to bring the feels. She had the guts to delve into several of those topics that are so controversial these days: religion, bullying, cyberbullying, homophobia, drug use, and a few other topics that I won't discuss because of spoilers.
I'll admit that when I first started reading Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always I was worried that having such a heavy focus on religion was going to turn me away from it because I just DO NOT enjoy reading books that deal with religious issues, however, I was drawn in from the very first page. You see, Cassandra "Cass" Randall has grown up in a religious home. Her parents are devoted Christians, as are her older brother Eric and younger sister Dicey, but Cass has a secret--one that she can never tell her parents. She's an atheist and she stopped believing in God a long time ago.
One of my favorite things about Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always is the way the chapters are set up like an internet survey, the first asking for three words that best describe you. Throughout the entire story Cass is having trouble with her identity. It all started with an internet survey that was floating around between the students at her school, a survey that Cass couldn't even begin answering. Why? Because Cass is a follower. She follows her best friend Kayla, she follows her parents, she follows what everyone around her tells her to do and who to be. So when her English teacher asks her to write a poem about herself, she's completely stumped. Who is Cassandra? What are her interests and hobbies? What does she enjoy? All questions that she can't answer. So what does she do to try to find herself? Buys some Tarot cards and secretly starts up an advice blog focused on reading the cards for answers. Of course things quickly spiral out of control--people begin cyberbullying, the church she's forced to attend each week is determined to find the culprit behind the blog and shut them down for their sorcery--and Cassandra is caught in the crossfire. She tries desperately to find herself, to be herself, yet despite everything her passivity wreaks more havoc than expected and in the end she has to deal with the consequences.
Cass isn't your typical heroine either. Sure she has her good qualities but what really made her real is the fact that she isn't this perfect girl out to save the world with a destiny she has to fulfill. She's shy and intimidated by the simplest of things. She doesn't know how to be her true self and she's a quiet follower, always doing what everyone else expects of her even if it isn't what she wants. Instead of standing up for herself and others, she sits back and watches the bullying happen, afraid to speak out and during the times that she does try it backfires. And in fact, she isn't that nice at all. She may talk politely and appear to be nice to their face, but toward some people her thoughts aren't all that nice. Mainly because she feels that if she were to befriend these people it will reflect poorly upon herself and she'll also be made fun of so she just keeps away from those people as much as possible. There were times that I was angry with Cass, furious even, but I also knew that she didn't know how to the person that she wanted to be. She didn't know how to have a voice of her own. She didn't know how to stand up to the bullies without getting bullied herself. There were several times I wanted to yell Do something! Say something!! ANYTHING! but always feeling as if even if I were there with her in the pages of the story it wouldn't matter. This was something she had to do on her own. There were times that I could really identify with Cass and I think that's also a huge part of why I enjoyed reading about her journey of self-discovery.
I'm not even going to delve into the topic of religion because frankly the Christian characters within Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always just pissed me off to the point that I wanted to throw the book across the room (which wouldn't have been good especially since I read this on my Kindle) and religion is a touchy subject so I'll just keep my thoughts to myself on this one, but I am thoroughly happy with how the ending turned out for Cass and the people around her. It wasn't a happily ever after, but it was nice and realistic. I also had a problem with a few of the other characters who did most of the bullying/cyberbullying. They were just plain mean and kind of put the movie Mean Girls in mind and I just hated how everyone followed them so blindly, even when they were terrorizing others.
Elissa Janine Hoole wrote a superb story dealing with issues that most people try to steer clear of. They're real issues in the real world and I'm so glad that I was able to receive a copy of this to review because it brought me out of my comfort zone and was told with a wonderful voice and easy writing style. After having been in a reading rut and having a hard time finding something to read and enjoy, it was wonderful to read Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always and love it.
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About Elissa Janine Hoole
I'm a YA writer, teacher, and incorrigible daydreamer. Author of KISS THE MORNING STAR and SOMETIMES NEVER, SOMETIMES ALWAYS, coming fall 2013 from flux.