Book Review: Everything All At Once

Everything All at Once
Published By: HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Page Count: 360
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Young Adult - Contemporary

Grief is one of those things that is universal. It crosses all ethnicities, faiths, and cultures. It doesn't distinguish based on skin color, place of worship, or language spoken. Humanity lives knowing that some day our time will come to an end. For many of us, this means that we try to make the most of our time. We spend it with those we love, we make memories, and we soak up goodness whenever possible. It doesn't mean that aside from grief life is a cakewalk. It's difficult at times - especially when stress invades or like the main character in this novel, Lottie, you suffer from anxiety.

I typically shy away from books that deal with the grief process. I know death is part of life and it certainly plays a role in fiction, but I typically don't go for sad reads unless something else about them calls to me. I want to spend my reading time immersed in fantastical lands, making literary friends, and losing myself in someone else's issues. Grief novels tends to trigger my own anxiety and make me think too long and too hard about difficult topics like how fleeting time truly is and how to make the most of every second. This often makes me want to quit my job and travel the world with my family soaking up beautiful sites and history while I keep us all wrapped in a protective bubble safe from harm, but that's hardly practical. What truly drew me to this novel was the unique way Lottie works through her aunt's death and her particular form of anxiety.

Lottie's Aunt Helen was something special to many people. To Lottie and her younger brother, Abe, Aunt Helen was like a second mother. When she is diagnosed with advanced stage cancer, the family is in disbelief. She was so healthy and vivacious that they don't understand how this could be possible, but cancer isn't a choosy disease. It attacks people from all walks of life. Aunt Helen is also in a unique situation because she has fans throughout the world who love her children's book series which follows a pair of immortal siblings named Alvin and Margo. In my mind, I kept visualizing Aunt Helen as J.K. Rowling as their writing careers followed similiar trajectories. When Helen learns of her fate, she begins to make plans which include writing letters with specific instructions for Lottie once she is gone. Helen knows that her death will hit Lottie the hardest due to her anxiety and she wants to provide her some small measure of comfort.

Lottie is shocked when she receives the bundle of letters at the will reading, but she is thrilled that in some way Aunt Helen is still alive and guiding her path. The letters lead Lottie to experience life beyond the confines of her comfort zone and force her to deal with her anxiety rather than brushing it off as no big deal. The way mental health is addressed in this novel is important because Lottie learns its always okay to ask for help. Nobody should have to suffer through anxiety all on their own.

In addition to the very real issues of grief and anxiety, the novel has a hint of magical realism. The concept of mortality vs. immortality is evaluated multiple times. There is also speculation about a multiverse. I won't give away exactly how these themes plays out, but I thought it was an intriguing way to add a little glimmer of fantasy to what was otherwise a serious read.

My only complaint with this one was the second half felt like it was less about Lottie and more about Sam. I understood the reasoning, but I found the first 60% to be hard to put down and parts of the last 40% didn't hold my attention as well.

One Last Gripe: Lottie often seemed a lot younger than her actual age. There were times when this felt like a middle grade novel, but then I would quickly be reminded by a scene that it was a YA novel.

Favorite Things About This Book: Aunt Helen's letters & the pop culture references

First Sentence: The day we threw Aunt Helen's ashes into the Atlantic Ocean was very windy.

Favorite Character: Abe

Least Favorite Character: I didn't have one.

From the author of The Half Life of Molly Pierce and The Lost & Found comes a magical new YA novel about 24 dares, 3 weeks, and taking a leap into the unknown.

Lottie Reeves has always struggled with anxiety, and when her beloved Aunt Helen dies, Lottie begins to fear that her own unexpected death might be waiting around every corner.

Aunt Helen wasn’t a typical aunt. She was the author of the best–selling Alvin Hatter series, about siblings who discover the elixir of immortality. Her writing inspired a generation of readers. 

In her will, she leaves one last writing project—just for Lottie. It’s a series of letters, each containing mysterious instructions designed to push Lottie out of her comfort zone. Soon, Lottie’s trying some writing of her own, leaping off cliffs, and even falling for a boy she’s only just met. Then the letters reveal an extraordinary secret about the inspiration for the Alvin Hatter series. Lottie finds herself faced with an impossible choice, one that will force her to confront her greatest fear once and for all.

This gorgeous novel is perfect for fans of Jennifer Niven, with the scavenger hunt feel of Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, and a dash of magic that evokes Tuck Everlasting.