Again Again by E. Lockhart
Adelaide Buchwald has just been dumped by Mikey, who has gallivanted off to Puerto Rico for the summer, leaving Adelaide behind at Alabaster Preparatory Academy. Adelaide plans to spend her holidays walking the dogs of absent professors and trying to complete the theatre design project that will save her from academic probation. Instead, she falls in love at first sight with Jack at the dog park, and rapidly becomes as obsessed with him as she previously was with Mikey.
Adelaide and Jack’s story is told with a twist; at the very moment they meet, the narrative begins to fray. E. Lockhart presents multiple variants on their every interaction, conversation and text message, each leading to very disparate outcomes for their relationship. No explanation is provided for this, but the ‘Illogic of the Multiverse’ conference taking place on the campus provides one possible way of looking at it.
Even with the unconventional format, Again Again at first seems like a straightforward romance – maybe even an anti-romance – but then other details start to emerge. Lurking behind Adelaide’s boy obsession is something she’s avoiding: her brother Toby has been in danger, sick, close to death. The true nature of the family’s ordeal is revealed in slow morsels, and Adelaide’s emotional landscape is transformed into something more raw.
If this sounds like it could be gimmicky or overly complex, please rest assured that Again Again is a thoroughly engrossing novel full of quirky and entertaining characters. Lockhart is such a confident writer that it’s easy to get swept up in her witty dialogue and sheer verve. If you’re already a Lockhart fan you’ll recognise Alabaster Preparatory Academy as the setting for Lockhart’s earlier novel, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. Again Again made me cringe with recognition at the mixed signals and patchy commitment of young love, laugh at the professors who were as confused as the teens, and even tear up a little at what Adelaide and Toby had been through. For ages 13+.