Author: M. Beth Bloom
Release date: July 7th 2015
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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My rating: 3 out of 5 starsEva has always wanted to write a modern classic—one that actually appeals to her generation. The only problem is that she’s starting to realize she can’t “write what she knows” because she hasn’t really lived. So the summer before heading off to college, Eva is determined to live a life worth writing about.
But soon Eva’s story starts to go in unexpected directions, like growing apart from her best friends, working at a job she is completely unqualified for, and even falling for the last person she would have ever imagined. Like anyone, though, it will be up to Eva to figure out how she wants this particular chapter in her story to end.
I hadn't heard much about Don't Ever Change before picking it up, and it sounds more like quiet, character-driven novel than a big frontlist title, so I didn't go in with any set expectations. And even though there were lots of things about this book I didn't like or that were just kind of weird, I actually really enjoyed reading Don't Ever Change! Not all that much happens and I can't really put my finger on what it is that I liked about it, but this novel was a very character-driven, enjoyable read.
I was looking at other reviews of this book just now, and, as I was expecting, there are a lot of negative reviews talking about how they didn't like Eva, the main character. And I can see where they're coming from because in the beginning, I didn't like Eva either. She is very uptight, judgmental, and pretentious, and she has no tact or empathy for other people. The way she treats her friends and doesn't seem to care much about anyone else annoyed me to no end. Eva would not be someone I would like to be friends with in real life.
And yet, I still really enjoyed reading about her and reading from her perspective. The writing is kind of stream-of-consciousness-esque, so we get Eva's unfiltered thoughts most of the time. Even when she's being kind of a terrible person, her witty, sometimes judgmental thoughts are very entertaining to read; I don't even know what it is about her, but I just wanted to keep reading from her perspective. And of course, Eva does not stay this way for the entirety of the novel: people continue to call Eva on her hypocritical, judgmental behavior, and she grows up a lot over the course of the novel. She still sticks to her beliefs - she's a vegan and a feminist - but she learns how to voice her beliefs without being quite so pretentious about it. Eva is a definite break from the usual contemporary YA heroines, which made for a refreshing and immersing read.
I'm not really sure what to make of the secondary characters. They are nowhere near as fully developed as Eva, and I wish I had gotten to know Eva's parents and best friends Michelle and Stephanie a little better, as well as the love interests, which I'll get into later. But in a way, it makes sense that their characters wouldn't be explored as much - with the stream-of-consciousness writing style and Eva's self-absorption, it wouldn't have fit for Bloom to include lengthy explorations of secondary characters. While their personalities are never spelled out for us, the interactions Eva has with the secondary characters are very telling. I especially liked the dynamics between Eva and her older sister Chloe. None of the secondary characters really have their own fully-developed stories, but they do contribute to Eva's stories in significant ways.
I also wasn't really sure how to take the romance. There are two principal love interests, Elliott and Foster. Things with Elliott start off kind of strangely: Eva meets a drunken Elliott at a party, and I didn't think it was gonna go anywhere, but the two of them end up talking for most of the summer, even though Elliott is off touring with his band. Eva is very straightforward about what she wants, and she's not whiny or overly emotional like many YA characters: it's clear that things with Elliott are never going to be all that serious, and that's what both of them want, which is refreshing to read about. Then there's Foster, who is the good guy counterpart to bad boy Elliott. Foster, I wasn't really sure how to feel about - he doesn't seem to have much of a personality, to be honest. He doesn't even seem to like Eva for the majority of the book, and even though I liked Eva's straightforwardness with Elliott, it gets a little weird when she does it to Foster, who doesn't seem to want to do anything with Eva. I wasn't really sure what to make of their relationship, so I thought it was especially weird when it became such an important part of the story later on; I kind of wish we could have just seen Eva grow on her own, rather than focusing so much on the romance towards the end.
I'm still not sure how to gather my thoughts about Don't Ever Change, and whether or not to recommend it. Parts of the novel are very unconventional for contemporary YA, which a lot of readers didn't like but I think can be a nice change of pace. Some elements are definitely weird, but I really enjoyed reading Don't Ever Change. If you're looking for a fast-paced plot or unambiguous messages, this book probably isn't for you, but if you think you could like a character-driven novel that doesn't stick to all the YA conventions, give Don't Ever Change a try!