(Reviews posted at The Book Pushers)
I must admit that I approach the NA genre with a bit of trepidation. Sometimes it knocks my socks off and other times it’s tepid at best. When done well, a NA story will have a depth of emotion/angst, uncertainty and engaging protagonists who are learning to deal with adult life situations for the first time. And then there are the ones that come across as narcissistic, melodramatic and shallow. For me, (Never) Again falls into that latter category. It wasn’t particularly bad, it just wasn’t particularly interesting, either. It took me awhile to get through this book because I kept putting it down. Finally, I forced myself to stick with it and muscled through to the end. I didn’t find anything new or compelling here.
The overall tone smacked a tad young and immature for an NA. Granted the characters were only 18 and had just entered college so that could have been a factor. Perhaps I just prefer my NA characters to be a bit older, further along in college/life and not quite so green and naive. Liz barely seemed able to function in the world just yet–at least not without a lot of help. The narrative had this odd way of dropping in random facts and character insights at the oddest times. Examples follow. Liz threw a decorative pillow at Zach, “but being an ex-state champion baseball player he caught it before it hit him.” Now, I don’t know. I’m not an athlete by any definition of the word, but I’m pretty sure I could catch a throw pillow when it’s tossed at my head. In another scene, Liz and Zach were playing a round of tag in a hotel room and Liz observed to herself that “Zach was quick–it was something his dad was proud of. Unfortunately, being quick hadn’t been enough for him to make the football team…” ?? I understand the need to integrate background information about a character into the narrative, but what did those tidbits have to do with anything in their respective scenes? Why was Liz telling us that Zach’s dad, who didn’t even factor in the story as anything other than an off-page presence, was proud of Zach’s quickness? Providing character background like this sticks out.
It was difficult for me to relate to Liz. On one hand she seemed nice enough. On the other, her self-absorbed melodrama turned me off. It is clear that Liz didn’t know who she was outside of the influence of those around her...
Read the full review at The Book Pushers: http://thebookpushers.com/2013/12/12/review-never-again-by-theresa-paolo/