Everything Is Changed by Nova Weetman

Monday, November 21, 2016

If only we could all go back to the way it was before…

Jake and Alex. Best mates. One terrible mistake. Two lives that will never be the same.

Told in reverse, this powerful and gritty novel moves through the wreckage of a broken friendship, back to the moment when everything changed.

I love a story told out of chronological order, and once I found out Everything Is Changed was told in reverse, I was really curious to see how that was executed. What's awesome about Everything Is Changed is that, even though it's told backwards, it somehow seems totally natural and effortless. Which surely it wasn't; this would be a complicated novel to write. Enough information is divulged to keep the reader engaged, but suspense is still maintained throughout.

Something I really love about Nova Weetman's work (particularly her previous YA novel, Frankie and Joely) is that while there are romantic storylines, they tend to be subplots; really, these are novels about the complexities of friendship. While Frankie and Joely ultimately ends with the central characters resolving their issues and strengthening their friendship, Everything Is Changed ends with Jake and Alex apart, their friendship well and truly over. That's not a spoiler because it happens at the start. While there is a slight moral message, it's really more about the friendship between the characters breaking down (and their respective personal crises as a result of what happens) than about either of the boys learning a lesson.

I think one weakness of back-the-front storytelling is that certain details are repeated in order to orient the reader in time; for example, if this story were told traditionally, we would not have to be told about characters who we have already met at an earlier (later) point. Am I confusing you? I'm confusing me, too. Basically, there's a little repetition so that we don't get confused. The protagonist and his dad play golf with Tony and his dad; at a later point (earlier in time) we're told the protagonist's dad admires Tony's dad. We already know that, from when they played golf, which hasn't happened yet. Make sense?

Apart from that minor gripe, the novel flows well. It's easy to follow, enjoyable and everything being told in reverse gives the events a sort of tragic inevitability while still being engaging. I wanted things to work out differently for the characters, even though they clearly couldn't. I don't like saying that particular novels are for girls or boys based on the gender of the characters - any reader of any gender should be able to enjoy reading about any character of any gender (if the only way a reader can relate to a character is through being the same gender, that's weak writing) - however for readers who want to read about boy characters, Everything Is Changed is terrific. It's about the friendship between two boys going horribly awry, after a terrible thing happens, and it's realistic enough for young readers to feel as if it could happen to them. It's dark, but it's not without hope. An enjoyable and immersive read.

Everything is Changed on the publisher's website.
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