Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always

By Elissa Janine Hoole
Published on November 8th 2013
Published by Flux
Source: Netgalley
Cassandra fears rocking the family boat. Instead, she sinks it. Assigned by her English teacher to write a poem that reveals her true self, Cassandra Randall is stuck. Her family's religion is so overbearing, she can NEVER write about who she truly is. So Cass does what any self-respecting high school girl would do: she secretly begins writing a tarot-inspired advice blog. When Drew Godfrey, an awkward outcast with unwashed hair, writes to her, the situation spirals into what the school calls "a cyberbullying crisis" and what the church calls "sorcery." Cass wants to be the kind of person who sticks up for the persecuted, who protects the victims the way she tries to protect her brother from the homophobes in her church. But what if she's just another bully? What will it take for her to step up and tell the truth?
I love good books about controversial issues that teens face. I requested this novel from Net Galley in part because it is about a teen who doesn’t believe in organized religion, and in part because it addresses cyberbullying. But I found it difficult to get into at first. I couldn’t relate to Cass at all. From my standpoint as a writer, I felt that the author spent too much time in Cass’s head, “telling” the reader that she is upset, confused, etc. It was much like hearing a teen ramble on about how much her life sucks, which may be an accurate description of a teen, but does not make for a good story.

Cass uses fortune telling cards to give anonymous advice in an online column, something that she is sure her parents would disapprove of. Yet, her parents seem to accept her brother coming out of the closet easier than they came to terms with her secret. I was confused and thought that was inconsistent with the parents that Cass describes.

Eventually, the novel did hook me. Cass gets herself into deeper trouble than she had ever expected, and the second half of the novel flew by. I loved the use of the poem to tie the story together, ultimately bring Cass at peace with herself and apologizing for her actions. The ending was definitely satisfying for a sometimes picky reader like myself.

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