Published by Harlequin Teen/ Mira Ink, 384 pages, April 13th 2015, £6.99 (Amazon).
Quick description: Quirky and witty story of contemporary high school shenanigans.
Steam?: none-graphic, some heat and tender moments.
Plot: Best friends Dave and Julia were determined to never be clichés so they even wrote their own Never List of everything they vowed they’d never, ever do in high school.
Some of the rules have been easy to follow; But Dave has a secret: he’s broken rule #8, never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. It’s either that or break rule #10, never date your best friend. Dave has loved Julia for as long as he can remember. So when she suggests they do every Never on the list, Dave is happy to play along. He even dyes his hair an unfortunate shade of green.
It starts as a joke, but then a funny thing happens: Dave and Julia discover they’ve actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even on love.
So, many people are comparing this to works by John Green. As someone who has not yet read The Fault in Our Stars etc, I can safely say that I enjoyed this in its own right. It is pretty brilliant writing. The dialogue is very witty and sharp as a razor. All the characters, not just the protagonists, are hilarious. There were certainly laugh out loud moments that turned a few heads during my reading.
That is not to say that the novel is light-hearted. There area few seriously intense moments. Dave and Julia are so determined to be ‘original’ during high-school that they completely ostracize themselves for 4 whole years. I mean I totally get that. It brought back my own memories. At that age you are so desperate to be unique and different. You don’t feel connected to the ‘in-crowd’, so you are OK brushing them away as unintelligent and ‘cliche’. Ignore them before they can ignore you. As Dave and Julia find out, this mentality doesn’t really last and happiness is only temporary.
What the protagonists do not realize, is that they are an ultimate cliche. A boy and girl who are childhood best friends, with the boy harboring a life-long crush? Where have we encountered this before?- Er I don’t know, everywhere! What is up with American high schools and boy-girl best friends… And the bucket-list activity fits perfectly as a Disney TV movie.
As the friends start ticking down their list, they embark on a roller coaster of interesting emotions, unearthing complicated issues that have been kept at bay for 4 years. Their different reasons for being social out casts become clear, but this realization leaves themselves to re-think their life choices. This amounts to an unexpected and totally un-cliched ending, which I honestly found a little abrupt and confusing.
The novel did actually remind me of Indy teen movies: Juno, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I can see Dave being played by Dylan O’Brien and Julia by Chloe Grace Moretz. I know, cliche much?