Published by Speak on May 22nd 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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Megan Harper is the girl before. All her exes find their one true love right after dating her. It’s not a curse or anything, it’s just the way things are, and Megan refuses to waste time feeling sorry for herself. Instead, she focuses on pursuing her next fling, directing theatre, and fulfilling her dream school’s acting requirement in the smallest role possible.
But her plans quickly crumble when she’s cast as none other than Juliet–yes, that Juliet–in her high school’s production. It’s a nightmare. No–a disaster. Megan’s not an actress and she’s certainly not a Juliet. Then she meets Owen Okita, an aspiring playwright who agrees to help Megan catch the eye of a sexy stagehand in exchange for help writing his new script.
Between rehearsals and contending with her divided family, Megan begins to notice Owen–thoughtful, unconventional, and utterly unlike her exes, and wonders: shouldn’t a girl get to play the lead in her own love story?
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I’ll be honest: I totally requested this book all because of its beautiful cover. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that its contents were just as lovely as the outside cover! Always Never Yours follows our main character, Megan Harper, through her senior year of high school. She unexpectedly gets cast as Juliet in her prestigious high school theater program’s production of Romeo and Juliet, after auditioning for the smallest speaking part to fulfill a requirement for a directing program she’s applying to. However, her own life seems to mirror Rosaline’s more than Juliet’s: in all of her seven past relationships, they guys she dated have broken up with her and immediately gone on to find what seems like the perfect, endgame partner for them.
I LOVE books like this, where the character’s life mirrors a book they’re reading, production they’re involved in, etc. (see also: Echo After Echo). The focus on the play and on theater in general was one of my favorite parts of this book. As someone who was involved in a lot of high school theater, the authors totally nailed the atmosphere of a high school drama department and the dynamics within a production’s cast. Because, yeah, you might have to play Juliet opposite your ex-boyfriend (who’s now dating your best friend)’s Romeo, like Megan does in this book. Always Never Yours felt, in large part, like a love letter to theater and to Shakespeare. Since the play takes up so much of Megan’s life, we get to experience it along with her.
Which brings me to another thing I love about Always Never Yours: you hear the term “slice-of-life contemporary” tossed around often, but this book truly made me feel like I stepped into Megan’s life for a few months and got to experience everything along with her. From her family life, to her friendships, to school, to the multiple productions she’s involved in (and, of course, her love life, too!), I felt like I got a complete glimpse into Megan’s life and self. I think what Always Never Yours did so well was capture a complete human’s life. Lots of books would have just focused on the main character’s interest and love life, but ANY doesn’t leave out the mundane stuff, the family and home life, etc. This really helped me relate to a character I normally would never have felt a connection with.
I will say, this book is heavy on the drama. Like, SO much drama. Of course, I loved it because drama-filled YA is one of my favorite guilty pleasures (I mean, seriously, I don’t know about you guys, but being a teenager WAS dramatic for me). Somehow, though, it felt true to the story. It also helped reinforce the parallels with Romeo and Juliet, because dang, that play is nothing if not filled with drama.
I loved the characters in this story, too! Like I said, Megan herself is a character I don’t have a ton in common with, but I really was able to relate to her and understand her better because of the way this story was written. She has clearly-defined passions and ambitions, and she grows a lot through doing something outside of her comfort zone and outside the realm of what she thinks she enjoys– and all because someone (her drama teacher) believed in her abilities. Also, I’m always here for more brash/”unlikeable” heroines in YA. They’re some of my favorite characters to read about. Megan’s friends also all felt like people I knew in high school (I especially loved Anthony!). And, of course, there’s Owen, her new friend and eventually, love interest. I found Owen himself a bit boring, but I thought he and Megan tempered each other so well. Their witty banter was one of my favorite things. Megan’s ever-evolving relationship with her family was a nice addition to the story, as well. I love YA where parental figures are actually present.
All in all, this book completely took me by surprise. If you love Shakespeare, theater, outspoken protagonists, and cute romances, you have to give this one a try! It’s the perfect feel-good spring contemporary.
Have you read Always Never Yours? Do you plan to read it?