Dave and Julia are best friends. They have feelings for each other, but neither has admitted it. When they rediscover a list of “cliché” things they vowed never to do in high school, they decide to spend the remaining weeks of senior year checking off items. With this setup, Adi Alsaid’s novel Never Always Sometimes follows one of the most familiar high school plotlines, luring young readers into familiar territory for a quick, satisfying and eventually surprising read. Alsaid uses clichés throughout both the plot and the structure of the novel, but ultimately twists them into a relatively realistic outcome in the book’s final act.
Like many creators of classic American high school tales, from John Hughes to John Green, Alsaid requires from his audience almost as much suspension of disbelief as with a fantasy novel, with protagonists who are several degrees more articulate and far less self-conscious than any real teenager. But like those beloved stories, this does not make Dave and Julia’s story any less enjoyable for the reader. Told in three acts, first from Dave’s perspective, then Julia’s, then alternating chapter by chapter, the novel undercuts generic differences between boys and girls, instead highlighting the specific differences between Dave and Julia. How these differences can go unnoticed, and how they can ultimately affect a relationship when they bubble to the surface, is a refreshingly clear-headed spin on the best-friends-in-love plotline.
Alsaid delivers a quick, satisfying read about change and continuity that will resonate with young readers approaching their own periods of transition.