September 2022

The Epic Story of Every Living Thing

By Deb Caletti
Review by
When Harper embarks on a journey to meet her sperm donor, nothing could prepare her for what she'll discover in this rich, sophisticated novel.
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Seventeen-year-old Harper Proulx lives her life on Instagram. Her lattes and lunches, her enviable day trips, even (if she’s being honest) her artsy boyfriend—they’re all curated for maximum appeal to her growing list of followers, whose validation she craves.

When one of those followers leaves a comment about Harper’s resemblance to a person named Dario, Harper is momentarily taken aback but not entirely surprised. Since she was young, Harper has known that she was conceived through a sperm donation, and she soon connects with her doppelganger and confirms that they are, in fact, half siblings. But Harper is stunned when Dario tells her that they have at least 40 more half siblings out there in the world—and that their sperm donor appears to be a beach bum named Beau Zane.

Reeling from a breakup and on something of a whim, Harper decides to join Dario and two other half siblings on a summer trip to Hawaii to meet Beau. She’s nervous about the idea, but at least the photos of Hawaii will look stunning on her Instagram, right? But nothing could prepare Harper for what she discovers on her trip, including a new understanding of identity and family, and a renewed appreciation for the world itself.

Deb Caletti (A Heart in a Body in the World) is far from the first YA author to tackle the hazards of a life lived online and the potential toll on teen mental health and relationships. But Caletti’s sophisticated, intricate storytelling brings complexity and richness to The Epic Story of Every Living Thing as the award-winning author explores themes of anxiety, found family and the natural world. Even the novel’s love story plays out in remarkable fashion, with subtlety and insight.

Caletti takes readers on a voyage that unfolds gradually and mirrors Harper’s own journey of discovery as she learns to witness “the whole of it, the grand tapestry.” The Epic Story of Every Living Thing is both deeply introspective and profoundly engaged with the world, making for a novel that embraces imperfection and inspires empathy.

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