Book Review: Not Now, Not Ever

Not Now, Not Ever
By: Lily Anderson
Published By: Wednesday Books
Publication Date:  November 21, 2017
Page Count: 320
Buy it at AmazonBarnes & Noble, or IndieBound
Source: eARC kindly provided by publisher
Young Adult - Contemporary

Super intelligent Elliott "Ever" Gabaroche feels suffocated by the expectations of others.  Her mother expects her to enter the Air Force.  Her father wants her to go to college and then law school.  Topping it off, her step-mother is in yet another performance of The Importance of Being Earnest with the local community theater.  Taking a cue from the Oscar Wilde play, Elliott runs away, under an assumed name (Ever Lawrence), to an academic summer camp at a college in Oregon.  Competition at the camp is fierce, but she could win a full ride to Rayevitch, the college of her dreams, and the only place she could major in science fiction literature!  Will she be able to keep her true identity a secret?  Will her life at camp become a Wildean farce?

The list of things to love about Not Now, Not Ever is long:  Oscar Wilde's constant presence, super snappy dialogue, and all the sci-fi feels (!), plus it's a book about smart kid camp.  Ever knows
The Importance of Being Earnest as well as many of us know The Princess Bride or Monty Python's Holy Grail; she's got a quote for everything.  It's stereotype crushing, apropos to the story, and laugh-out-loud funny.  The dialogue in the book brims with zingers and science fiction references.  I saw a lot of myself in the way Ever loves science fiction, and I couldn't help but wonder whether author Lily Anderson is a fellow sci-fi nerd girl or just a really good researcher.

As a kid, I had the good fortune to be able to attend academic camps at Purdue University in the summers between 7th and 10th grades.  Although my camp experience was nowhere near being a cutthroat competition, Anderson perfectly described other aspects of nerd "boot camp":  the relief of being around other like-minded kids, the shared references, the awe of the collegiate library, getting to know each other's strengths and weaknesses, and trying on a new personality/way of interacting away from the pressures of home.  Anderson really gets it.

After so many positive points, you may wonder what keeps Not Now, Not Ever from being a five birdie book.  I confess.  I really did not love the ending.  I don't want to give anything away, but the mystery at the heart of the book was not solved in a satisfying way for me, and the loose ends did not all get tied together.  Also, Ever made some choices that did not feel totally in character for her, or were not adequately foreshadowed.  Still, I very much enjoyed the book and look forward to reading more of Lily Anderson's books!

Reader's Note: This book is a hard PG-13 for language.


Elliot Gabaroche is very clear on what she isn't going to do this summer.

1. She isn't going to stay home in Sacramento, where she'd have to sit through her stepmother's sixth community theater production of The Importance of Being Earnest.
2. She isn't going to mock trial camp at UCLA.
3. And she certainly isn't going to the Air Force summer program on her mother's base in Colorado Springs. As cool as it would be to live-action-role-play Ender's Game, Ellie's seen three generations of her family go through USAF boot camp up close, and she knows that it's much less Luke/Yoda/"feel the force," and much more one hundred push-ups on three days of no sleep. And that just isn't appealing, no matter how many Xenomorphs from Alien she'd be able to defeat afterwards.

What she is going to do is pack up her attitude, her favorite Octavia Butler novels, and her Jordans, and go to summer camp. Specifically, a cutthroat academic-decathlon-like competition for a full scholarship to Rayevich College, the only college with a Science Fiction Literature program. And she's going to start over as Ever Lawrence, on her own terms, without the shadow of all her family’s expectations. Because why do what’s expected of you when you can fight other genius nerds to the death for a shot at the dream you’re sure your family will consider a complete waste of time?

This summer's going to be great.