Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
I know what it’s like to watch the people you care about replace you and never look back. I’ve gone through it eight times now.
I bought this book only because it was written by a real-life couple. The idea of creating a novel with a loved one appealed to the romantic in me, and I wanted to see how two intimate people could integrate their unique voices into a single point of view. Since co-authored, YA contemporaries are typically he-said-she-said in nature, this one is a black sheep, but not in a bad way.
Always Never Yours is about Megan Harper, a girl who is always dumped by guys whom she thinks are hers for the taking. Strangely, every guy who breaks up with her sooner or later finds his “true love.” Thus, Meagan believes that she is cursed or fated to be replaceable, a mere stepping stone for her beaus. This debilitating misconception continues to dominate Megan’s life until it is challenged by Owen Okita, one of her fellow actors in their school’s production of Romeo and Juliet.
It was actually my first time to read a YA book with such a “boy-hungry” protagonist. One of the issues tackled in Always Never Yours was slut-shaming or the discrimination of girls who enjoy their sexuality to the fullest. I personally admire “demurely empowered” girls. Thus, though I acknowledge the consequences of slut-shaming, I cannot say that I’m a fan of sexually active people. I’d rather have one meaningful romance in my lifetime than several fleeting ones. This is just my opinion, so you don’t have to be affronted.
But I digress. In light of my convictions, I struggled to feel neutral about Megan. The way she flirted was indeed funny and witty. But sometimes, I really wanted her to stop evoking the lust of Owen and her other male peers. Furthermore, I was annoyed by Megan’s penchant for self-deprecation. Whenever something bad happened, she made matters more complicated by jadedly blaming herself, saying that she shouldn’t have expected anything good to come out of this or that.
I should give credit to Megan’s receptivity to rebuke or advice. In this regard, her low self-esteem was pretty helpful. It made her more willing to apologize and learn from her mistakes. If Megan had disregarded the counsel of her family and friends, she wouldn’t have attained her happily ever after. All in all, Megan was not as mature as she was sexually empowered. Still, she did have some good moments in the book.
Another important topic explored in Always Never Yours was the blended family. One of the conflicts in the book stemmed from Megan’s fear of being out of place in her own family. Megan’s parents were divorced, but they eventually mustered the strength to build new families. Thus, Megan was stuck in between and didn’t know where she really belonged. Despite its melancholic gravity, I was very intrigued by the family drama in this book because it made me fondly think of my grandmother, who has a lot to say about blended families. She raised her grandchild for a decade, and the latter now lives with her father and stepmother. Let’s leave it at that before this review becomes too personal. xD
As a final note, this book reminded me of Anna and the French Kiss, which is controversial because of the glorified or sugarcoated cheating. Just like Anna and Etienne, Megan and Owen “made progress” at the expense of a current girlfriend who ended up being a mere plot device. The current/ex-girlfriend had no character development whatsoever. It was simply said that she was Cosima, an Italian whom Owen had met at some theater camp. Logically, Megan didn’t feel guilty about breaking Owen and Cosima’s long-distance relationship since it was supposedly “shallow.” Really, should I explain or justify my indignation? My fondness for Owen’s racial diversity and nerdy personality was nearly eclipsed by my dislike for his questionable morals.
I gave Always Never Yours 2.5 stars. I was delightfully surprised by the cohesive writing of the authors, and I appreciated that they made an effort to discuss important topics like slut-shaming and blended families. Unfortunately, I wasn’t completely pleased by the character arcs of Megan and Owen. This book will stay on my bookshelf just because it can inspire me to write a novel with a special someone someday.