Again Again

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Again Again Book Poster Image
Engaging tale of love, possibility, and addiction recovery.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A few facts about the opioid crisis. Readers will gain some understanding of drug addiction's affect on family, and about the recovery process. An Author's Note mentions real-life art installations that inspired the fictional ones in the story.

Positive Messages

Don't pin your own happiness on other people's feelings. No one else is responsible for your happiness, and you aren't responsible for anyone else's. Things change, and when they do you can't go back to how it used to be; you can only go forward.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Adelaide, who's about 16, is full of contradictions and a good role model in some ways but in others, not so much. She's obsessed with being in love and ties up all her emotional well-being into romantic relationships. She's not doing well in school, although traumatic circumstances in her family make it understandable. But she's very responsible when it comes to her summer job as a dog walker, she's a loving and helpful family member, and a loyal friend and sister. Her younger brother Toby becomes a good model for recovery from addiction. Roommate Stacey shows that negotiating love and relationships is the same for everyone, no matter your preference in partners. There are a couple of good examples of asking for and giving consent for sexual activity.

Violence

A couple of past mentions that a teen deliberately hurt himself with a hammer in order to get prescription pain medication. A dog mauls Adelaide's arm, pain and blood are briefly described but no serious harm is done. A teen punches the dog in the nose twice to try to make it let go; there's no permanent or serious injury to the dog.

Sex

Teens having sex once is implied but not directly narrated, mentioning kissing on a bed, opening a box of condoms, and talking awkwardly about what Adelaide wanted to do. Some kissing, none described in detail. Teens talk about dating, romance, and a couple of past discussions about having sex are mentioned; no details or body parts are mentioned. Teens see 3-D pictures in a teacher's home that turn out to be pornographic when viewed wearing 3-D glasses. The pictures aren't described.

Language

"S--t," "bitch," and "poo-wiener-thunder-butt."

Consumerism

A few food, beverage, and retail products mentioned incidentally. The prescription drug Percocet mentioned once.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adelaide's younger brother Toby (about 14), is addicted to opioids. For most of the story he's in rehab and a halfway house. He has a relapse. A past incident is described where Adelaide finds Toby unconscious in the bathroom with a needle and has to call an ambulance. Some facts are given about the opioid crisis but don't go into any detail. Adelaide's constant worry about her brother is a major theme along with how they try to rebuild their relationship. What the process of recovery is like for Toby emotionally is seen in some detail. Teens drink beer a few times. Mention of an adult with a pill habit. Adelaide wonders if some giggling teens have been smoking pot. Shooting up is mentioned. Adelaide's parents didn't forbid her to drink alcohol; they often lectured her about safety and gave advice on being careful.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Again Again, by popular young adult novelist E. Lockhart (We Were Liars), is a coming-of-age story about high-schooler Adelaide, whose younger brother is in recovery from addiction to opioids. Adelaide's fears for her brother and their damaged relationship are prominent themes. Although it's firmly grounded in the here and now, there's a slight sci-fi element from switching between narrating events and possibilities for how the events could have played out in various alternative universes. A harrowing overdose is narrated briefly without gory details, and an instance where her brother hurt himself with a hammer in order to get prescription pain killers is remembered. The only other violence is a dog mauling that mentions blood and pain, but there's no serious or permanent injury. Sexy stuff is mostly kissing and teens talking about love and relationships, but having sex is implied once without direct descriptions or mention of body parts. There are a couple of good examples of asking for consent and talking about what the partners want. Adelaide's roommate is a positive model for same-sex romance. Strong language is rare but includes "s--t," "bitch," and "poop-wiener-thunder-butt."

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What's the story?

AGAIN AGAIN tells the story of Adelaide during the summer between her junior and senior year of high school. Her boyfriend of more than eight months just dumped her. She lives in constant fear that something terrible will happen to her brother, who's addicted to opioids. And her inability to concentrate on school work junior year means she's on academic probation unless she can make up lot of work over the summer. And she just met a really cute guy at the dog park whom she's pretty sure she's deeply in love with now. Woven throughout these events and realities are endless possibilities in the multiverse for different outcomes, different loves, and different kinds of happiness.

Is it any good?

Veteran YA author E. Lockhart adds an interesting twist to what would otherwise be a fairly typical teen-angst story by weaving alternative possibilities for different outcomes throughout the novel. Again Again asks things like, what if she didn't reply to that text, or what if Jack had never gone to the dog park, or what if her brother never became addicted to drugs? But the story doesn't just pose endless what-ifs. It also takes us on Adelaide's journey to learning how to cope, and where (and where not) to put all her hopes for happiness in life.

The novel starts a little slow and confusing. Adelaide's not very likeable at first, and it takes a little while for the way the alternative universes are presented to sink in and start to make sense. But as we learn more about Adelaide and everything she's going through, she becomes easier to relate to and understand. And the different fonts used for the alternatives help keep things clear. Author Lockhart sometimes creates short lines out of full sentences or paragraphs that look like poetry, but they aren't successfully poetic and mainly seem like trying too hard to do something different. The ending has as many possibilities as the rest of the story, but all of them manage to be satisfying to think about.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Again Again deals with Toby's drug addiction. Is it a realistic portrayal? Did you learn anything new about addiction and recovery, or about the opioid crisis?

  • What do you think about the idea that there are multiple universes out there where things are slightly different, or events turn out differently? Most people have something they wish they could go back and do differently. If you could, what would you do over? Why?

  • Have you read any other books by E. Lockhart? Which one is your favorite, and why? If you haven't, would you like to now?

Book details

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For kids who love coming-of-age books and teen romance

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