Review: Like Never and Always
Grounded by a sympathetic narrator, Ann Aguirre’s LIKE NEVER AND ALWAYS (Amazon) is a largely successful exploration of identity–with a supernatural twist… and plenty of kissing.
Liv and Morgan are best friends, and have been since they were in elementary school together. Morgan is flawlessly, effortlessly cool. She’s fashionable, arty, and very wealthy. Liv is a little more down to earth, with an interest in science and a loving family.
When Liv is thrown from a car after a tragic accident while driving with Morgan and their boyfriends (who are brothers!), she wakes up to find that her soul is stuck in Morgan’s body.
Liv anticipates a few immediate problems, such as the fact that she (Morgan) is dating her boyfriend’s brother, or that she has to pass Morgan’s classes at school. What Liv doesn’t anticipate is that Morgan’s life was a mess. And it’s not just Morgan’s distant father or lack of real friends that’s making Liv’s second shot at life difficult.
Morgan was obsessed with finding out why her mother died in a mysterious car accident over a decade before. Her hunt for answers drove her to some disturbing places and now Liv is dealing with the fallout of Morgan’s terrifyingly bad decision making. She’s also trying to not fall for Morgan’s boyfriend, Clay. Liv’s always assumed that he was a bad boy type, but she comes to realize that she’s completely misunderstood his situation. But can she tell him that she’s not actually Morgan? And can she solve the mystery of Morgan’s mother’s murder?
Liv worked well as a character for me. She was simultaneously smart and naive, with the grit and resolve to face an impossible situation. She fights for what she wants, whether that’s to join the advanced science courses at school (something that no one believes she (aka Morgan) can do) or to convince Clay that’s she’s Liv.
Grounded by a sympathetic narrator, Ann Aguirre’s LIKE NEVER AND ALWAYS is a largely successful exploration of identity--with a supernatural twist.
(as a note, there is a pretty strong anti-therapy thread through Liv’s thinking, which may not be the healthiest. I don’t think we’re obligated to present only good choices to teens, but just a note if you are someone who, or have a teen who, is dealing with difficult issues).
Although it doesn’t come into play until a little later in the narrative, Aguirre does a nice job addressing the issue of a different soul… or spirit… living in someone’s body. Is Liv just along for the ride? How much is she Liv? How much does having Morgan’s body and some her memories make her someone else entirely?
Clay and Nathan are a little more generic, but Aguirre has worked to make them sympathetic. And hot. She wants you to know how hot they are. But also sensitive. My fifteen year old self is skeptical that there are multiple hot but secretly caring guys that Liv keeps making out with, but hey, this is a fantasy novel.
There were a few extraneous plot threads that didn’t pull their weight, or felt a little too amped up. I don’t want to spoil things, but some of these threads lead to a character death in the finale that I found jarring (which I believe was on purpose) and a little unnecessary (which I believe was not on purpose). I see why Aguirre did it, because it simplifies a couple of thorny issues, but it felt like it was used for its plot utility and to be dramatic (and that accusation of being dramatic is coming from me, who did not bat an eye when earlier in the novel we literally find a character sobbing on someone’s grave).
If I wanted to be fancy, I’d say that Aguirre uses the supernatural to explore issues about self, otherness, and the flawed narratives we create about the world, using dramatic examples to question how much readers may know or understand about themselves.
Or I could say that there’s a lot of hot people making out in this book. Both things are true! If you find either of these things appealing, LIKE NEVER AND ALWAYS might be a good fit for you.
- Recommended Age: 14+
- Language: Swearing, not a ton
- Violence: The threat of sexual violence
- Sex: Discussed, some teenage experimentation with a few details