- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: HarperTeen (July 7, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062036882
- ISBN-13: 978-0062036889
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Don't Ever Change Hardcover – July 7, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—After Eva's English teacher Mr. Roush tells her that she needs to write what she knows, the teen decides to spend the summer between graduating high school and starting college on the other side of the country in Boston. She doesn't feel anything in her life to this point is worth putting on paper, however, and decides to try out other people's experiences. Eva becomes a camp counselor, she goes out with Elliott and considers sleeping with him, and goes out with a friend's ex-boyfriend. Nothing affects Eva like she thinks it would, but she keeps attempting to change herself to find things worth writing about. Through all of these changes, the protagonist drives away her friends and snaps at her family. Eva works hard to control what people think of her, but she makes snap judgments about others. Though told from Eva's first person point of view, she is a hard character to sympathize or empathize with as she struggles to change herself based on how she she's perceived. Her eventual growth doesn't seem to come about organically, but feels tacked on. With the exception of Eva's sister Courtney, the secondary characters are not fully fleshed out. Some references to drinking and sex make this title appropriate for mature teens. VERDICT Not a first purchase.—Natalie Struecker, Rock Island Public Library, IL
Praise for DON’T EVER CHANGE: “With her trademark snark and wit, Eva narrates a summer unexpectedly full of romance, responsibility, and self-reflection. Bloom has created a multifaceted, often curmudgeonly protagonist who is not always kind or careful, but who is muddling through teenagerdom as best she can.” (ALA Booklist)
“Readers will find themselves rooting for Eva as she begins to open up and see other people as more than just potential characters in her stories.” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA))
Praise for DRAIN YOU “Bloom debuts with a languid, stylish novel that reads like a love letter to cult vampire flicks like The Lost Boys, the work of Francesca Lia Block, and Southern California in the 1990s.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Bloom’s writing style is unique, blending traditional flowery verbiage with irreverent contemporary dialogue. The plot is also a pleasing blend of friendship, romance, and action with a paranormal twist.” (School Library Journal)
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is really hard for me to review because I really wanted to like it. I was intrigued by the premise: as a writer, I love reading about young writers and seeing some of my struggles reflected back in literature. I definitely related to Eva, in that I vividly remember how it feels to want to write but feel that you have nothing interesting to write about. A lot of Eva’s mistakes reminded me of my own life so I had a hard time begrudging her for anything.
I am a big proponent of so-called “unlikeable characters” in part because I am one in so many ways. If someone were to write a novel of my life, I’d be getting 1- and 2-star reviews all over the place—I would be such a whiny narrator, especially if I’d been written ten years ago. Eva’s somewhat bitter, dissociated voice reminds me so much of me at that age and even into adulthood: she wants to badly to experience things, to have stories, that she ends up missing what’s actually going on a lot of the time. On top of that, Eva knows that she’s unlikeable:
“And even if sometimes I veer pretty close to being an Unlikable Character, I’m at least aware of the fact. Which means I have the chance to stop what I’m doing and change, before I become so unlikable that the reader gives up on me, shuts the book, and sends it flying across the room.”
I enjoyed the subtle way M. Beth Bloom turns the traditional coming-of-age narrative around. We’re expecting Eva to go through this huge transformation, to become less judgmental, more open-minded, more social, and less self-obsessed. And while she does change, slightly, and at least becomes more aware of her behaviors, she doesn’t transform into someone else. Some of the best scenes that show this are the ones when Eva is trying to become a Good Camp Counselor, despite her lack of natural talent for leadership. Eventually, she recognizes that she has to accept herself the way she is instead of trying to mold to other people’s expectations. As an adult who still struggles with this, Eva’s refusal to change is sort of…dare I say…empowering.
And yet, there was so much about Don’t Ever Change that I wish I could change (heh). For one thing, the writing didn’t really impress me. I’ve said this a million times, but present tense doesn’t work for me so often because it so easily becomes episodic. I didn’t feel like I got to spend enough time processing each moment before we were racing onto the next (even when some of those moments didn’t even feel important to the story at all). I didn’t have time to attach any emotions to most of the scenes, even the highly emotional ones dealing with Eva’s transition from child to adult and her journey toward leaving for college.
Additionally, there were a lot of missed opportunities for developing side characters. While Eva is all wrapped up in her head and what’s going on in her life that she doesn’t bother to characterize her three close friends, who end up coming across as cardboard cut-out teenage girls. When Michelle and Steph get mad at Eva for being self-centered, I can’t blame them, but I also didn’t particularly care when they didn’t show up in the story for a while—because I couldn’t be bothered to care about them. On top of that, there are very few descriptions of anyone in the story. All I know is that Shelby is a hot girl, Eva should wear glasses but doesn’t because she thinks they make her look ugly (which is actually borderline triggering for me because I felt like I was ugly for wearing glasses for so long), and the guys are hot, I guess. I can kind of make a case for the lack of characterization: Eva is self-obsessed, and as a young writer she hasn’t developed her keen sense of observation and description yet. Even if that’s the reasoning, it still left me feeling not very attached to anyone in the book.
The romantic moments in this story are absolutely cringe-worthy. I don’t know how else to characterize them. Granted, Eva’s romantic bumblings totally resemble me from age 17 to…roughly 25: I feel like she ends up making out with these guys because she’s hoping it’ll turn into a story, which is something I’ve done so.many.times. I get that, I really do. I lived it. But it was still disappointingly bad storytelling. I wanted to give a shit about Foster, but I really couldn’t be bothered to care. (view spoiler)
Which, when it comes down to it, is the main problem I had with this book: despite my personal connection to the young writer’s experience, I couldn’t really be bothered to care what happened to Eva. I wanted to care, but I wasn’t really given any reason for doing so. This was an enjoyable read as a now-adult writer, but it left me wanting a lot more.
I have mixed feelings for this book. It wasn’t bad, but it also didn’t live up to my expectations. On the plus side, there were some great reflections on what it means to be a writer and on learning that shutting others out/distancing oneself from one’s experiences is not a healthy way to live your life. The plot itself is not new, but it had the potential to be a really fascinating story of personal growth, of learning to accept and embrace (scary) changes. Eva’s situation is extremely relatable. In addition, Bloom’s narrative is often funny, and I enjoyed a number of the secondary characters.
However, I hated Eva. Now, in Bloom’s defense, readers are supposed to kind of hate Eva. She starts off as a pretty obnoxious person, and the novel is primarily about her growth as a character. However, while she does grow in self-awareness, it doesn’t feel like she really changes all that much, and there are whole problematic behaviors that she never seems to feel convicted about. I don’t want to include any spoilers here, but the way she handles romantic relationships was really troubling to me, and she doesn’t seem to believe her behaviors are wrong. These problems are just swept under the rug at the end of the narrative, only superficially resolved. Therefore, the romantic subplot was totally unsatisfying to me, even though Eva’s main potential love interest (Foster) is an interesting and likable character.
One of Eva’s main problems is her arrogance and her tendency to protect herself by maintaining a critical distance in her interactions with others. She’s more interested in creating a good story than truly engaging in her life (read: allowing herself to be vulnerable), and she is selfish and sometimes callous. Even though the book is written from her egotistical perspective, we should still be able to see some of her (theoretically) good motivations. However, it wasn’t clear at all that there was a good, likable person underneath her judgmental nature. I found myself wondering why Steph, Michelle, and Shelby were her friends in the first place, and why Foster was interested in her at all despite how terribly she treats him. This is not just because of her flaws, but because I didn’t find Eva’s supposed “good traits” at all convincing. She was a flat character. The result was that it was hard to identify with Eva, and, therefore, hard to care about her.
***See full review for this book and others at my YA book blog: http://youryablog.com/?p=186
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