Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always


For Cassandra Randall, there’s a price to pay for being a secret atheist in a family of fundamentalists—she has nothing good to write on an online personality quiz; her best friend is drifting away; and she’s failing English because she can’t express her true self in a poem.

But when she creates a controversial advice blog just to have something in her life to call her own, there’s no way she can predict the devastating consequences of her actions. As her world fractures before ...

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Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always

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For Cassandra Randall, there’s a price to pay for being a secret atheist in a family of fundamentalists—she has nothing good to write on an online personality quiz; her best friend is drifting away; and she’s failing English because she can’t express her true self in a poem.

But when she creates a controversial advice blog just to have something in her life to call her own, there’s no way she can predict the devastating consequences of her actions. As her world fractures before her very eyes, Cass must learn to listen to her own sense of right and wrong in the face of overwhelming expectations.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Faced with an English assignment to sing herself à la Whitman, 17-year-old Cass Randall can’t find much to sing about. Bent on finding something that’s all hers, she hits on Tarot cards, even though her family’s religion condemns them, and starts an anonymous Tarot-based advice column. Hoole (Kiss the Morning Star) takes up the perennial problem of a teen figuring herself out and loads her story with plot. Cass’s older brother is gay and thinking about coming out; a sad sack from her church group wants to be friends; Cass can no longer ignore the distance between her and her best friend; and a nice guy in English class seems to like her—a rare bright spot for her. Amid a storm of bullying and small acts of cowardice and denial, Cass finds bravery and a sense of who she is. The messages—that bullying has real costs, that bystanders aren’t innocent, and that you have to be yourself—are familiar, and this, combined with all the setup the plot requires, keeps the book from catching fire. Ages 12–up. Agent: Sarah Davies, Greenhouse Literary Agency. (Nov.)
VOYA - Judith A. Hayn
Cassandra Randall has just turned seventeen and is failing English because she will not write a poem of self-discovery using Whitman's "Song of Myself" as a model. She thinks she is an atheist even though her parents force her attendance at an evangelical Christian church in small town Minnesota. She fears she is losing her bff status with childhood pal Kayla, who has gone "wild child" by spending her weekends in Minneapolis hanging out with punk band musicians. She caught her older brother giving his boyfriend oral sex, something that would rock the homophobes at the Joyful News Bible Church. Drew, an outcast classmate and fellow church member, wants desperately to be her friend. Darin from English class dogs her about that unwritten poem and seems to appear wherever Cass happens to be. To win popularity and defy her parents, Cass writes a secret online advice column based on her own interpretations of tarot cards. The blog skyrockets out of control quickly, and Cass is left with disaster in all of her relationships. Hoole's debut novel reveals the dangers of unmonitored internet encounters, even when begun by a well-intentioned teen with identity issues. Cass is difficult to like sometimes, as she continues to run away from disaster, remains unwilling to act, and refuses to accept any responsibility for the consequences of the resulting cyber-bullying. Whitman may have been right that singing and celebrating yourself have value, and Hoole invites the reader to do just that at the story's end. Reviewer: Judith A. Hayn
Kirkus Reviews
Cyberbullying, religious doubt and coming out are just three themes shoehorned into a well-meaning but unsuccessful novel. Already stressed from keeping her atheism and her brother's sexuality a secret from her religiously conservative family, Cass is devastated when an online survey convinces her she is the "least interesting" person she knows. She reacts by starting an anonymous advice blog, which quickly becomes a magnet for cyberbullying. Unsure of the proper response and further distracted by academic struggles and a potential new romance, Cass' failure to act leads to disaster. Cass' internal struggles as she realizes her developing values differ from her friends' and family's are deeply believable. The fear of personal rejection that prevents Cass from seeking help with her personal struggles and the resulting panic-fueled decisions that inadvertently draw her into a malicious social circle likewise resonate. Less credible are her parents, whose ideologies conveniently shift to speed resolution. Much of their characterization centers on their religious faith, which describes gay-rights activists as attempting to turn believers "away from God's path." Despite this, they immediately support their son's public declaration of love to his boyfriend. This so contradicts the rest of the novel that it feels contrived rather than heartwarming; several other conflicts resolve with equal lack of credibility. Ultimately, the credulity-straining number of plotlines compressed into the narrative obscures Cass' potentially candid voice. (Fiction. 12-18)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780738737225
  • Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
  • Publication date: 11/8/2013
  • Pages: 360
  • Sales rank: 518,633
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Elissa Janine Hoole bought her first deck of Tarot cards as a birthday gift to herself when she turned twenty, and even in the privacy of her own apartment, she felt like she should hide them. The three words she uses to describe herself are curious, caring, and contemplative. Suggestions from her husband and two sons include crazy and cantankerous. Elissa teaches middle school English and sometimes makes her students write poetry that celebrates and sings themselves. She also wrote the YA road trip novel, Kiss the Morning Star.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 10, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I really enjoyed this novel, and I actually found it much more i

    I really enjoyed this novel, and I actually found it much more interesting that the synopsis itself makes it out to be. Not only is it about bullying, a hot topic in the nation right now, but it also deals with over zealous religion (borderline cult), intolerance and homosexual relations, advice columns, and the philosophical question of right and wrong. Honestly, I think this novel is extremely well written and while I wasn’t sure if I would really like it going in, I came out of it absolutely in love with Hoole’s writing style and characterization.

    The novel begins with Cassandra attempting to take a survey during which time she realizes she’s completely boring. She has no great answers to any of the questions, not like her friends or even her sister, and so she struggles to make herself stand out. As the novel unfolds, each chapter is titled with one of the questions from the survey, launching into what Cassandra does in order to be different, and in my opinion, this technique really worked well.

    Cassandra Randall has spent much of her life as part of an extreme religion/cult society within her small town, thanks to her overzealous parents. But, as her church and its members only make-up about half the town’s population, and as Cassandra continues to witness the vast differences between her life and those of others outside the church, she decides it’s time to put her foot down and rebel. After all, Cassandra doesn’t tend to believe anything her church is spouting, at least, she hasn’t for a while now, anyway. I once knew someone who had a family similar to Cassandra’s, and it’s a bit scary to think about. The extreme strictness and labeling of everything outside the Bible as evil is a bit much, in my opinion, and having actually known someone in a situation similar to Cassandra’s made it easy for me to connect with her. I understand her mindset and the need to rebel, which is ultimately what Cassandra is doing through her tarot reading and blogging, and while that may seem a bit extreme, it is indeed the perfect rebellion, even if she doesn’t actually tell her parents about it…

    What I really loved, from the very beginning, was the characterization and voice of Cassandra. She is extremely unique and, like all high school students, struggles to find her identity. And while aspects of the novel may be far-fetched, I still really liked the overall message, especially as it isn’t neatly tied up with a bow at the end. Cassandra still has to grapple with her actions, her parents, her beliefs; and she has to own up to her actions, but in the end, it’s an extremely engaging story that I highly enjoyed and definitely recommend.

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