A lot or a little?
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that author Shannon Takaoka's Everything I Thought I Knew blends romance and quantum physics in a story about 17-year old Chloe, whose life is upended when she collapses at track practice and ends up getting a heart transplant. She's not sure who she is with her new heart. She takes up surfing, befriends a high school dropout who's her exact opposite, and makes some risky, dangerous choices on her way to figuring out who she really is. There's no violence but some scary moments: repeated nightmares about a motorcycle accident, a surfing mishap that knocks Chloe out and pins her under a wave, a very dangerous actual motorcycle ride, and a heart attack. The romance between Chloe and Kai is a main plot point, but they only share one intense make-out scene; Chloe recounts kissing a different boy a few months before she collapsed. Occasional strong language, including "damn," "dick," "hell," "s--t," "a--hole," and several instances of "f--k." Teen readers who appreciate a little romance with their theories of the multiverse are likely to enjoy this book.
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What's the story?
At the start of EVERYTHING I THOUGHT I KNEW, Chloe's life was carefully laid out -- she was on track to attend a top college and become a scientist. But then she learns she has a heart defect and needs a new heart to survive. Eight months later, she's missed half her senior year getting and recovering from the transplant. Physically she's OK, but she's plagued by nightmares of a motorcycle crash, has memories that do not feel like hers, and she starts surfing, something she never thought about doing before her transplant. Chloe is different in other ways, too: She gets drunk and high with a new friend who's her complete opposite, rides a motorcycle dangerously fast, and takes big risks out on the waves. She enjoys the sweet romance growing between her and Kai, her cute surfing instructor, but logical, science-believing Chloe can't distract herself from the nightmares and memories. Following her maxim of "it's better to know than not know," Chloe pursues answers to the questions plaguing her about her donor. When she learns the truth, will it actually help her to move forward?
Is it any good?
The aftermath of an ambitious teen's heart transplant is a compelling premise for a YA novel and this highly readable first novel does not disappoint. Though Chloe's central problem in Everything I Thought I Knew -- trying to figure out who she is following a life-threatening medical crisis -- is highly particular, teen readers will relate to her search for meaning and identity. The main characters are well-drawn and interesting. Chloe and Kai's slow-burn romance is fun and deeply satisfying. It's easy to understand Chloe's desire to run from her internal crises by surfing, her opposites-attract friendship with Jane, experimenting with drinking and marijuana, and driving fast.
The weaving in of quantum physics and the possibility of multiverses opens up the story to fascinating possibilities. Author Shannon Takaoka's writing is precise and at times raw, and the action is well-paced. A major plot twist might feel over-the-top to some readers, but the catharsis and growth it leads Chloe to feel is hard-won and somehow right. With its high stakes, sci-fi bent, great surfing scenes, love story, and emotional ups and downs with family and friends, this book is a page-turning pleaser for many different kinds of readers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how science is incorporated into Everything I Thought I Knew. What did you learn about heart transplants? Quantum physics? The multiverse theory? What effect did these science ideas woven into the story have on you as a reader? Would you read more books like this?
Chloe struggles with friendships after her heart transplant. Why do you think this is? What does Chloe learn about friendships? What does Everything I Thought I Knew say about how to be a good friend? Do you agree?
As you were reading, what did you make of Chloe's sense that she had inherited the memories and interests of her heart donor?
- Author: Shannon Takaoka
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, High School, Science and Nature
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Candlewick Press
- Publication date: November 13, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
- Last updated: November 9, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love romance and stories of physical illness
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