A new book from E Lockhart is always cause for celebration and, while this one didn’t do it for me quite as much as Genuine Fraud or Frankie Landau Banks, it is chock full of great writing and interesting ideas. For me, it had an interesting touch of A. S. King about it, with that mix of poetic reality and juxtaposed fantasy.
This much we know for sure about Adelaide Buchwald. She is in the summer between junior and senior year and is staying at her boarding school, Alabaster, along with her teacher dad for the summer. Her younger brother, Toby, is a recovering opioid addict who has already had one relapse and he is living with their mother in Baltimore as he goes through his recovery program. Just before the end of the school year, Adelaide was dumped by her boyfriend Mikey Lewis Lieu (aka Mikey Double L). She has spent the year failing her classes as Toby’s situation bored into her, but unwilling to show her sadness has developed a bright sparkly persona which seems to fool most people. The only way she can avoid flunking out is to create a model set for Sam Shepherd’s Fool for Love for her theater design class.
By the end of the summer she will have started coming to terms with all this.
But in the middle, there are many branches of the multiverse in which Adelaide experiences love, loss, grief, and the slow tendrils of recovery. She meets Jack and has a brief fling with him or Mikey Double L comes back or she has a relationship with Oliver. None of these relationships come to fruition because, despite wanting love, she is not ready for it until she can see herself clearly and she needs to repair her relationship with Toby.
Adelaide’s journey from broken to whole encompasses all of these. There is a main thread that runs through to the end and the different possible branches are indicated (at least in the ARC) by different fonts and bolding. Though Adelaide follows four different routes, they all lead to the same ending: A friendship and a restoration.
As an added bonus, there are some fascinating descriptions of art pieces (apparently inspired by real life work) and their inspiration bleeds into Adelaide’s process of designing and creating her model set while reflecting her inner work in progress.
I think E. Lockhart is one of the most interesting authors working in fiction today. Her ambition and experimentation mean her novels really blur the line between YA and adult literary fiction, though their protagonists typically mean they are classified as teen reads. While Again Again was less successful for me than some of her other novels, I think those who loved We Were Liars will particularly enjoy it.
Thanks to Delacorte and Netgalley for the digital ARC.