Title: Not Now, Not Ever
Author: Lily Anderson
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: November 21st 2017
“Elliot Gabaroche is very clear on what she isn’t going to do this summer.
1. She isn’t going to stay home in Sacramento, where she’d have to sit through her stepmother’s sixth community theater production of The Importance of Being Earnest.
2. She isn’t going to mock trial camp at UCLA.
3. And she certainly isn’t going to the Air Force summer program on her mother’s base in Colorado Springs. As cool as it would be to live-action-role-play Ender’s Game, Ellie’s seen three generations of her family go through USAF boot camp up close, and she knows that it’s much less Luke/Yoda/”feel the force,” and much more one hundred push-ups on three days of no sleep. And that just isn’t appealing, no matter how many Xenomorphs from Alien she’d be able to defeat afterwards.
What she is going to do is pack up her attitude, her favorite Octavia Butler novels, and her Jordans, and go to summer camp. Specifically, a cutthroat academic-decathlon-like competition for a full scholarship to Rayevich College, the only college with a Science Fiction Literature program. And she’s going to start over as Ever Lawrence, on her own terms, without the shadow of all her family’s expectations. Because why do what’s expected of you when you can fight other genius nerds to the death for a shot at the dream you’re sure your family will consider a complete waste of time?
This summer’s going to be great.“
“I opened my mouth to laugh, but it died in my throat, threw itself a funeral, and dug graves for every ounce of joy that I could ever feel again…”
Lily Anderson’s companion novel to The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You is inspired by Oscar Wilde’s jovial play The Importance of Being Earnest. In Not Now, Not Ever, seventeen-year-old Elliot Gabaroche concocts a plan to attend Camp Onward in an effort to win a scholarship to her dream college. The only problem is she has to do it without her overprotective family finding out. But as Ever Laurence, Elliot gets to be whomever she chooses, without the expectations of her parents hanging over her head. Winning one of the few scholarships at a camp full of geniuses and keeping her scheme a secret becomes increasingly more difficult when Elliot’s annoying younger cousin Isaiah shows up, hoping to win a scholarship himself.
Elliot is a character who is easily relatable. On the verge of adulthood, Ellie needs to decide what path her life is going to take. This isn’t easy when she’s been born into a family where her choice of career means choosing one parents over the other. Her mother expects her to attend the Air Force Academy over the summer, to follow in so many Laurences’ footsteps. Her father and stepmother are hoping she takes a different route — the former hoping she chooses to study law like him. Elliot on the other hand has dreams of her own. At Rayevich College she’d have a chance to study her all-time favorite authors like Octavia Butler and N. K. Jemisin. Even though Elliot’s family is a point of contention in the novel, I loved how important a role family played in the story. It’s easy to see how much Elliot loves her parents and how much she doesn’t want to disappoint any of them. I also loved that this novel has a positive portrayal of a blended family where Elliot’s stepmom is an important part of her life. Elliot’s relationship with her cousin Isaiah has been defined by a childhood where her own accomplishments were always overshadowed by his own. I wanted more for the two of these characters in terms of their relationship. In the end, it felt like Elliot had more of a chance to mature, but this is her story, so it’s somewhat understandable.
The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You is filled with nerdy references and Anderson does not disappoint in this department when it comes to Not Now, Not Ever. A camp full of nerdy geniuses provides plenty of opportunity to celebrate all things geeky. Anderson has a way of writing settings where the cast of characters gets to celebrate their nerdiness in a fun and unapologetic way. One of my favorite things about her books is how authentic and relatable these incredibly intelligent characters end up being. Fans of the first novel will recognize some familiar faces and rediscover others. Elliot’s love interest, Brandon, for example, is a character that I didn’t know I wanted an update on. Their relationship is sweet with just enough realism to feel authentic.
Not Not, Not Ever is the perfect contemporary for those who love nerd culture. It can be read as a standalone, but I highly recommend everyone pick up both of Anderson’s novels as she continues to impress me with her writing.