Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always by Elissa Janine Hoole Review

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Title: Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always
Author: Elissa Janine Hoole (Twitter)
Publisher: Flux
Publish Date: November 8, 2013
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 360
Source: Publisher

Cassandra fears rocking the family boat. Instead, she sinks it. Assigned by her English teacher to write a poem that reveals her true self, Cassandra Randall is stuck. Her family's religion is so overbearing, she can NEVER write about who she truly is. So Cass does what any self-respecting high school girl would do: she secretly begins writing a tarot-inspired advice blog.

When Drew Godfrey, an awkward outcast with unwashed hair, writes to her, the situation spirals into what the school calls "a cyberbullying crisis" and what the church calls "sorcery." Cass wants to be the kind of person who sticks up for the persecuted, who protects the victims the way she tries to protect her brother from the homophobes in her church. But what if she's just another bully? What will it take for her to step up and tell the truth?
Cassandra colours within the lines. She plays by the rules and does as she's told by her family and her religion, but she knows it's not her. It doesn't make her feel whole, or complete, or normal. Honestly though, Cass isn't sure who she really is, and she doesn't know how to discover that but by professing her innermost feelings on a blog. But the blog opens a Pandora's box in which everything is taken out of context and Cassandra is more confused than ever. Who is she really, and how will she tell the world - and her family - that it's time to meet the real Cassandra?

In a novel that redefines what it means to tackle issues head-on, Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always grapples with hard-hitting topics that have defined a generation. Author, Elissa Janine Hoole, presents to readers a sympathetic character who wants desperately to fit in but doesn't know her place or how to define it. Surrounded by issues including fundamentalist religions, cyber-bullying, homophobia and more, the novel challenges readers to zero on those issues which they've encountered in real life and relate them back to the story.

This is a tedious review for me to write because a part of me likes what the author set out to accomplish with this Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always. There is another part of me, however, that feels incredibly burdened by the cumbersome and somewhat overbearing details throughout the story. The beauty of the book lies within the fact that we're given characters with whom we can empathize and those who we desire to see change and succeed. And, when you break the plot down to its most minute elements, it works, and it's well planned out. The writing is solid, and the storyline is one which I was most intrigued about. Unfortunately, however, my enjoyment in reading the story was overshadowed by extreme excesses. In most novels, we'd see one main issue tackled - say, cyber-bullying. In this book, however, we're thrust into utter chaos with multiple issues including but not limited to religious zealots and extreme prejudices. It honestly felt like there was so much happening at all times that I never really got to see Cassandra develop and transition from the immature girl at the start to the empowered young lady at the finish. And, because there was so much going on at once, I never felt as though I could focus on just one main issue at a time. At times, the novel comes this close to succeeding in imparting a theme in our minds, but then it transitions at lightning speed, and we're onto the next issue. Essentially, it was a case of less really is more.

Overall, Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always has all the makings of a successful novel, but it fell a bit short of my expectations and left me wondering why it didn't tackle one issue on its own. I give it a decent 3 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


  1. Oh no! I don't like when a book tackles too many issues either. It makes it harder to get the characters and also you don't feel that emotional impact that the book could have had had only one issue/topic been handled.
    I'm glad that you did find some positives though.
    Lovely honest review, Melissa!

  2. I haven't read this one but I can see what you're saying with the overwhelming-ness (is that even a word? Sheesh.) of multiple issues. That can totally blow apart a well-constructed plot. Maybe it just needed some tighter editing, considering the writing was good? *shrugs* Maybe not.


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