Relatable and realistic, hopeful and empowering, Always Forever Maybe adresses an important subject: when ‘love’ isn’t what it seems.”
Anica Mrose Rissi masterfully conveys the irresistible power of physical attraction and how that intoxication can unexpectedly turn toxic. I’m afraid too many readers will relate to this unflinchingly honest portrayal of an abusive first love, which is precisely why Always Forever Maybe is an essential book.
In western New York, high school senior Betts is tired of her parents’ micromanaging and of always playing it safe. At the candy store where Betts works, she meets Aiden, a boy with a difficult past and endearing qualities (a motorcycle named after Ralph S. Mouse, for example), and an earth-shaking attraction strikes: “I felt like whatever he wanted me to be, I’d be it.” When Aiden’s affection turns toxic, Betts gives him the benefit of the doubt, trying to demonstrate selfless love as his behavior becomes jealous and controlling, reveals an undercurrent of simmering anger, and becomes physically abusive. Betts’s best friend, Jo, and her twin, Eric, show kindness and concern, playing an effective foil to obsessive love—even as an explosive public incident shows everyone, including Betts, the truth. This emotionally resonant YA debut by Rissi (The Teacher’s Pet) meaningfully highlights known patterns of intimate-partner abuse and speaks to the joy and importance of enduring friendship. Further elevating the story are romance rendered alongside a Bechdel-Wallace Test reference, female sexuality written without shame, and a group of funny, authentically written teens. Ages 13–up. Agent: Meredith Kaffel Simonoff, DeFiore & Company. (June)
Equal parts crackling tension and sparkling humor; the worst relationships have to offer and the best. It’s the rarest book that manages to be so important, so emotionally resonant, and so utterly propulsive and compelling all at the same time. You won’t be able to put it down.
Anica Mrose Rissi’s debut novel is a masterful mix of light and dark—sometimes tender, often funny, always brutally honest. Always terrifyingly real. This book will break your heart—then piece it back together, even stronger than before.
Gr 9 Up—High school senior Bee has been living in the shadow of her best friends, popular twins Jo and Eric, counting the days until she can move away from her demanding parents. When Bee begins dating Aiden, her relationship with Jo becomes strained, which further increases as she starts keeping secrets involving Aiden from Jo. The tone starts off lighthearted, but quickly turns serious as Aiden's true character is revealed. Bee is convinced that he is the one, and she remains in the relationship as he becomes jealous, irrational, and violent. Her parents forbid the relationship, causing her to want Aiden even more. Readers will sense Bee's fear, and the pressure of trying to please everyone but herself. When sudden tragedy strikes, Bee finally realizes that she must leave Aiden before it's too late. Rissi's first YA novel gives an accurate but heartbreaking picture of an abusive relationship. The story has mature language and sexual scenes, as well as realistic situations, which older teens will appreciate. VERDICT Fans of Colleen Hoover will enjoy this modern-day realistic fiction tale; a good choice for most YA shelves.—Laura Jones, Argos Community Schools, IN
In western New York state, high school senior Betts meets a handsome boy at the Sugar Shack where she works and immediately falls for him.On first meeting Aiden, Betts is already thinking, "…but this guy—I felt like whatever he wanted me to be, I'd be it." It's a reaction based solely on physical attraction: Aiden is "perfect and so pretty and ahhhhhhh." Leather jacket-clad Aiden rides a motorcycle which Betts is all too willing to hop on, all doubts swept away by the force of her crush. Betts' first-person narration captures her yearning for a romantic relationship, but fortunately her half Thai, half white and Jewish best friend, Jo, and Jo's twin brother, Eric, ground her when she is swooning off the deep end. They also ultimately save her when Aiden turns out to be clingy, controlling, and both physically and emotionally abusive. Betts' romantic vision of being swept off her feet by a motorcycle-riding Prince Charming becomes a nightmare more than a fairy tale, and it takes family, good friends, and an almost deadly accident to awaken her from his spell. Though clearly intended to teach about domestic violence, Rissi's tale is elegantly written with a keen insight into teen relationships. Aiden and Betts are white, and there is ethnic diversity in the school community.An absorbing tale of a fatal attraction and its consequences. (domestic violence resources) (Fiction. 13-18)