A review by Nalini Haynes
Adelaide is a dog-loving dog-walking student at a private residential high school in the US. She’s living on campus with her dad who is on staff, working over summer to pay the bills after both he and his wife sacrificed their retirement funds to try to help their addict son who is even younger than Adelaide. Adelaide is also earning money walking teachers’ dogs while they’re on holiday, which is where the action starts. In this story as in all quantum universe stories, possibilities are explored again again. Different decisions, different actions lead to different consequences. There is no “right” path, only many paths. And one most beautiful path that breaks the trope rules, making this book a standout read.
High school romance
Romance in high school may well be sweet, toe tingling and enticing but it rarely leads to life-long relationships. Adelaide thought she’d found her One True Love, then he broke her heart before leaving for an exciting trip. He knew well in advance but didn’t bother telling her until after they’d made plans for the holidays and everyone else had left. Suddenly Adelaide was all alone. Again.
After her brother’s family-shattering problems with addiction, she grew up fast and protects her parents out of habit. Problem is, between focusing on her romance and protecting everyone else, she flunked last semester and has to make up her grades over summer. And she’s SO not motivated.
Part of making up her grades is to complete an assignment that has peculiar relevance to the plot. Also, Adelaide loves an experimental visual art space and visits it regularly.
Siblings of addicts
While I haven’t read a lot about child-siblings of child-addicts, I have read a lot – and experienced – the multitude of difficulties caused by one child requiring more attention than another. Research says siblings are neglected: this isn’t necessarily true, but they can feel that they’ve missed out because the ill or disabled child requires extra attention at certain points in time. Some times parents are just trying to keep a child alive, as is the case in this novel.
Lockhart has researched these issues well. So well I wonder if she has personal experience of being the child who watches while others demand attention and financial sacrifice.
Avoiding spoilers while commenting on disability
The book blurb says this summer Adelaide falls in love more than once. One of those times is with Jack. She notices him, describes his beauty… then her description travels down his body to notice that he moves unevenly. Later she notices one leg hasn’t grown evenly and there’s a scar on his belly. However, she obsesses over his beautiful looks, not his disability. She is curious about the disability but the way the story goes it appears that she’s not fetishising his disability, she’s crushing on a guy who has a disability. Until it does seem she’s obsessing on his disability.
Jack’s response is mixed. In the end, I have to say that I think he’s a fairly normal teenage guy, with all that entails. However, in one alternate reality he tells her off for fetishising his disability. People do fetishise disability and don’t treat us – disabled people – as equals with agency so we need to protect ourselves from these behaviors. Jack was, at times, a dick. But he was also assertive and protected himself appropriately at other times.
Just this point alone makes Again Again a must-read for English Literature classes and book groups in my opinion.
I’d love to write an in-depth analysis of Lockhart’s representation of Adelaide’s family, addiction issues and disability in Again Again but that would be spoilery. I’ll settle for highly recommending this novel as one suitable for teenagers and older. Again Again is like Me Myself I by Pip Karmel (the book more than the movie although both were enjoyable). However, Again Again is about a teenager not a 30-something woman like Me Myself I. Also, Adelaide doesn’t slide between realities, she’s grounded in one reality; we just see glimpses of other possibilities. Adelaide’s art and love of experimental art plus other social issues entwined with the plot puts Again Again alongside Cloudwish as one of my favorite YA romancy coming of age type stories.
Without spoilers: I’d just like to add that there are CERTAIN EVENTS in the climax and conclusion that make this book a cut above the rest. I’d love to discuss them but, y’know, spoilers. Also: dogs. What’s not to love? I highly recommend Again Again.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Imrpint: A&U Children’s (Allen and Unwin Australia) and Penguin Random House elsewhere
Format: paperback and other versions; 304 pages
Category: fiction, young adult, romance, addiction, disability