Sunday 31 December 2017
#CBR9 Book 125: "Not Now, Not Ever" by Lily Anderson
Rating: 4 stars
Elliot Gabaroche is very clear on what she isn't going to do this summer.
1. She isn't going to stay home in Sacramento, where she'd have to sit through her stepmother's sixth community theater production of The Importance of Being Earnest.
2. She isn't going to mock trial camp at UCLA.
3. And she certainly isn't going to to the Air Force summer program at her mom's base in Colorado Springs. As cool as it would be to live-action-role-play Ender's Game, Ellie's seen three generations of her family go through USAF boot camp up close, and she knows it's much less Luke/Yoda/"Feel the Force" and much more one hundred push-ups on three days of no sleep. And that just isn't appealing, no matter how many Xenomorphs from Alien
she'd be able to defeat afterwards.
What she is going to do is pack up her determination, her favorite Octavia Butler novels, and her Jordans, and run away to summer camp. Specifically, a cut-throat academic-decathlon-like competition for a full scholarship to Rayevich College - the only college with a Science Fiction Literature program, and her dream school. She's also going to start over as Ever Lawrence: a new name for her new beginning. She's even excited to spend her summer with the other nerds and weirdos in the competition, like her socially-awkward roommate with neon-yellow hair, and a boy who seriously writes on a typewriter and is way cuter than is comfortable or acceptable.
The only problem with her excellent plan to secretly win the scholarship and a ticket to her future: her golden-child, super-genius cousin Isaiah has had the same idea, and has shown up at Rayevich smugly ready to steal her dreams and expose her as a fraud in the process.
This summer's going to be great.
Last year, I read the rather excellent The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You, a modernised YA take on Much Ado About Nothing, set in a prep school for especially gifted students. So when I discovered that Lily Anderson had written a companion novel, with very gifted students competing with each other at a summer camp, as a modern YA retelling of sorts of the Oscar Wilde play The Importance of Being Earnest, I knew I was going to have to read it. Now while I absolutely adore the Shakespeare play, honesty forces me to admit that I haven't actually ever read the Wilde play (nor even seen a movie version - shameful, I'm sure). I did read a summary, and while the previous book was fairly loosely based on the Shakespeare, this book is an even more loosely inspired retelling.
This book is clearly set some time after TOTWTMIS, with the protagonists of that now college-age, with some of them helping out as advisors at the summer camp. Because Elliot/Ever is terrible with remembering names, she gives pretty much everyone, especially the counsellors, nicknames, so they're "Perfect Nerd Girl" and "Lumberjack Beard", even having read the previous book, it took me a while to place familiar characters. Brandon, one of the supporting characters from that book, is the mysterious young man who carries around and works mainly on a typewriter (it has a fairly logical explanation, he's not just a hipster). He's one of the members on Ever's decathlon team, and as the weeks pass, it's clear that there's a lot of chemistry between them.
Isaiah, Ever's cousin, has promised mutually assured destruction if she lets anyone know that they are not in fact twins (he's technically too young to compete, and has lied about his age to get in - and told one of the counselors that they were brother and sister before Ever could intervene) or if anyone in their families finds out where they are. To begin with, some of the other campers are worried that Ever and Isaiah are going to go easy on each other because they're related, but Ever soon proves that she is utterly ruthless and willing to crush her "twin", should the need arise. Having her obnoxious relative close by isn't the only problem facing Ever, though. As the camp progresses, it's clear that someone is stealing important items from the campers, and trying to sabotage the competition. Things get increasingly more tense as the weeks pass and the frustration among the various competitors starts building.
As in the previous book (which you in no way need to read to enjoy this, but possibly should check out just because it really is such a fun read), there's tons of nerd references throughout the book. As science fiction is Ever's passion, there were a lot more references to that here, and as I myself am not as big a fan of the genre (certainly not in book form - I keep trying), I think more possibly went over my head, but it in no way took away from my enjoyment of the book as a whole.
I liked the various friendships that built as well as the romance between Ever and Brandon. Leigh, Ever's strange and wonderfully oddly behaved roommate is a delight and the camp seems a pretty awesome place to spend the summer (even if I'm not vaguely smart enough to qualify). While I think I liked last year's book a tiny bit better, this was still a very fast and fun read, and I will be waiting eagerly for whatever Lily Anderson writes next.
Judging a book by its cover: Not exactly the most exciting of covers, but they've managed to find a girl with pretty big hair (Ever is tall and her impressively large hair is mentioned several times in the book) and a guy who looks adorably scruffy enough to be Brandon. Not entirely sure I like the big font they've used, but the yellow background is very cheerful.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.