I was quite skeptical going into this book, honestly. I didn’t enjoy or have any high praise of Lockhart’s previous novels; especially during the summer release of We Were Liars which garnered so much attention. It didn’t impress me and put Lockhart in a very average place in my mind, I wasn’t interested in reading any of her future works.
Then I read the description of Again Again and I thought I might as well give the author another chance. I’m glad I did. I fell in love – it was slow at first, then all at once.
From the offset, the concept of the novel isn’t approached the way that you might think it functions in the story based on the description. But, that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s the core strength of this book and what makes it as good as it is. Here’s the thing about Again Again, a lot happens in the book and a lot doesn’t happen. You’ll understand what I mean by that if you read it. I think if you go into this book trying to parse out all the storylines logically, it will most certainly take away from your experience.
It’s exhilarating in an odd way to let go of such an attachment to chronological plot.
This book isn’t a love story to me – at least not in the conventional sense. Yes, a great deal of the book is concerned with Adelaide and her relationship to three particular boys. But, fundamentally, the book is really about Adelaide’s relationship with herself – I think. And her relationships to other people, how she views those people and how that changes her and her actions. Adelaide has the type of characterisation that makes you feel seen and not scared; she is flawed enough and dramatised enough in a literary sense that you accept her thoughts without having to confront them yourself.
Lockhart’s greatest achievement, I think, in this novel is her writing. The craftsmanship involved in not only organically executing the elements of the story which cycle back and get a do over but in the pacing of the story itself is fantastic. The main character, Adelaide, remarks at one point in the book that she often thinks in poems. And this is so perfectly reflected in the prose of the book, it’s not a prose novel. But the sentence structure creates these well defined beats that are rhythmical, lyrical.
You might be wondering then, why not give the book a higher rating?
I don’t have any particular qualms or criticisms about the book that really stand out. But that’s an issue the book has, as much as I love and appreciate the craftsmanship that’s gone into this book – it levels out with its content and becomes something decent, just good enough. Not memorable. I honestly had a tough time recalling anything specific about the book. But I remember the atmosphere it created and how it made me feel. Again Again captures two key things; the first is the air of potential, the bittersweet feeling that accompanies summer and romance. The second is it’s thesis on characters, through the lens of how Adelaide interacts with characters – especially with her brother and Jack in the forefront of the novel.
The novel remains cohesive because to some extent all of the characters are cynical, it’s a deliciously complex melding of who people are and who they appear to be. I think if Adelaide had been this sad little girl while everyone around her was perfectly okay, it would have come across as fanciful and less genuine. But it doesn’t because people are complicated and portraying them as such doesn’t have to be necessarily so. It struck me several times that Lockhart managed to convey this message with simple interactions.
To conclude, Again Again makes you think about all the things you could have, would have, should have done. It’s one of those books that prompts nostalgia to breed within its pages and it manages to remain inexplicably hopeful.
I was provided a copy of this book for review by the publisher.