I received Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, and I give it 3/5 stars.
Elliot Gabaroche is very clear on what she isn't going to do this summer.
1. She isn't going to stay home in Sacramento, where she'd have to sit through her stepmother's sixth community theater production of The Importance of Being Earnest.
2. She isn't going to mock trial camp at UCLA.
3. And she certainly isn't going to the Air Force summer program on her mother's base in Colorado Springs. As cool as it would be to live-action-role-play Ender's Game, Ellie's seen three generations of her family go through USAF boot camp up close, and she knows that it's much less Luke/Yoda/"feel the force," and much more one hundred push-ups on three days of no sleep. And that just isn't appealing, no matter how many Xenomorphs from Alien she'd be able to defeat afterwards.
What she is going to do is pack up her attitude, her favorite Octavia Butler novels, and her Jordans, and go to summer camp. Specifically, a cutthroat academic-decathlon-like competition for a full scholarship to Rayevich College, the only college with a Science Fiction Literature program. And she's going to start over as Ever Lawrence, on her own terms, without the shadow of all her family’s expectations. Because why do what’s expected of you when you can fight other genius nerds to the death for a shot at the dream you’re sure your family will consider a complete waste of time?
This summer's going to be great. (Goodreads)
The first thing you should—no, need—to know is that I loved Lily Anderson's The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You. Loved it with all my heart. I was so stoked for this book, especially when I heard it was a sequel.
Another thing you need to know is that you may want to read The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You right before diving into Not Now, Not Ever because there are a lot of characters, new and old. Part of the fun is catching up with the characters you loved from the first book, now three years later, and part of the struggle is trying to keep them all straight.
Elliot/Ever is a sweet, driven, dorky character. My mistake was constantly comparing this book to the first one. Elliot is not Trixie by any means. And that's great, obviously, because Anderson wouldn't want to write the same character over and over. I really liked Elliot, and Leigh and Brandon, but that's pretty much where it stopped. The old characters are given, but out of the vast array of new characters, I liked three.
I admit, I know nothing about The Importance of Being Earnest so I can't compare that story to the one Anderson created, but it was a quiet, slow march to the finish line that I ultimately enjoyed. Although, within the last, like, 5% of the book, a major twist happens and I would have loved if the story had focused on that. It's revealed by a side character and it felt...cheap? I know it wasn't the focus of the story, but why include it then? I'm a bit salty because it was a good little twist, and very reminiscent of the first book's "mystery" kind of tone.
Loose ends: I feel like I should give props to the cover because it's lovely and wonderful. There are a lot of wonderful, educational moments regarding race, hypocrisy, etc. and the cast is realistically diverse.
*SPOILER POTENTIAL BELOW*
The ending was a stretch for me. Elliot is at her camp almost three weeks and she's kicking ass left and right, but suddenly Other Character is so great that he/she could potentially win the scholarship Elliot was after? It just felt like it came out of nowhere, like the plot twist mentioned earlier, and then there's the matter of the love interest being interested in Elliot's thing, which I don't want to say even though I said there could be spoilers here. It just felt immature to me, but I guess teenagers...are...so....yeah.
*SPOILER POTENTIAL ABOVE*
Ultimately, I enjoyed this book and it was a quick read once I had time to sit down and read it. I look forward to more books from Anderson because she does have a good sense of humor and her nerd references—despite a lot going over my head—are so quirky and enjoyable. And I did like the main characters. She writes interesting, fun characters.
Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson will be published November 21, 2017.