I am a huge fan of figure skating, so when I saw a new upcoming YA — Every Reason We Shouldn’t — I immediately had to request it. It sounded amazing — it focused on Olivia, a biracial teen who is a figure skating medalist and Jonah, the new guy, who is also a biracial teen who is a speed skater and starts training at Olivia’s parents’ rink and the story takes on from there. One thing to note about this is that Olivia is half-Japanese while the author says that Jonah is three-quarters Korean, but this is not an ownvoices novel. The author is white, but her children are half-Japanese, so she says in the author’s note that she wrote this because there weren’t many stories for biracial Asian teens. I am sad to report that I did not enjoy this book at all.
First of all, I really did not enjoy the characters. Olivia and Jonah did nothing for me. I found them to be really flat characters, and moreover, I couldn’t quite comprehend any of their struggles or issues, because none of them really made sense. Moreover, Olivia was pretty much awful at times. For example, when her best friend was explaining how she would love to go back and do high school differently, Olivia said something along the lines of “what, you would study harder so you would not have a minimum wage job at an ice rink”. Who does that? And like I said, I could not find any aspect of the characters that I liked, I never really understood their motivations or their issues, it all translated very two dimensional to me. Moreover, both Olivia and Jonah had this “we are not like other people” which read very much like the not-like-other-girls trope, with them constantly talking how other people just don’t get them, but in a way that felt so performative and obnoxious and not like it had any real grounding.
The same thing is true for the rest of the characters — they felt like placeholders and did not really have any prominent characteristics and served just to push the narrative forward.
I was also super excited about the skating part, but the passion that the author wanted to instill into Oliva never really translated. For example, she gives this big speech at the end about skating and how she loves it, but not once in the book did I feel like she loved the sport. We were supposed to believe that she loved the sport, but we were never really shown said love.
The romance also did nothing for me. First of all, it happened already at 15% into the book, and wasn’t given any build-up or tension to be believable. The characters had no chemistry whatsoever, and moreover, Jonah was pretty shitty to Olivia at times. He was both dubious and unsupportive of her talents and interests, which was bad, and he was also such a show-off and a self-righteous person that kept being a jerk, so I did not even understand what was there to like about him.
I also felt like the representation in this was quite performative. To me, it really translated like a white woman writing about an experience that she doesn’t have and doesn’t fully understand. Moreover, the story kept stressing on the fact that Olivia is half-Japanese while Jonah is “three quarters” Korean at weird times, and it felt like the author wanted us to not forget that this was a diverse story, without really engaging with that in any sort of meaningful way. And I just felt a little bit iffy about a white person writing about the “overbearing Asian parent” stereotype. It all felt a bit performative. I respect that the author has biracial children, but this still felt like it was obviously not written by an ownvoices author.
The book also has a lockdown scene in the school which was handled super poorly. It’s used for shock factor and drama, and it’s never properly explored. Being lockdown in a school is terrifying and an experience that needs to be dealt with really carefully, and this book did not do that at all. It was only there so Jonah could say I love you to Olivia (at like 25% into the book) and for her to state that this was both the worst and the best day of her life. PLEASE. And then the whole lockdown experience was just brushed over which really did not sit well with me.
I also felt like the plot of this novel made no real sense. The pacing was really off, and I felt like the book kept going without any sort of real direction or purpose. Not a lot happens throughout the book and then an issue is introduced at 95% into the book and gets resolved so quickly so I saw no purpose to it. It was just not a well paced book, and I was bored for the most part, which is weird since this book is under 300 pages, so there’s not a lot of room for things to drag and yet they did.
Finally, I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing. The dialogue did not work, and there were to many instances of adult-trying-to-talk-like-the-kids instances, like using the word extra 40 times in the book, or “get it guuurl” or “boy, bye” things which got on my nerves infinitely.
I am really sad I did not like this one, but I did not enjoy anything about this book really. It’s rare for me to not find anything to like in a book, but this one was such a huge miss for me, and I would not recommend it.
I would love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments below!
In the meantime, happy reading
*I received a free eARC of this book through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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