Wednesday, December 23, 2015

3 Heart Review: All We Have Is Now by Lisa Schroeder

All We Have Is Now
Lisa Schroeder

Page Count: 272

Release Date: July 28th 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Lisa Schroeder and CBB Book Promotions!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

What do you do with your last day on earth?

There are twenty-seven hours and fifteen minutes left until a meteor strikes North America, and, for Emerson and everyone else who didn't leave, the world will end. But Emerson's world already ended when she ran away from home last year. Since then she has lived on the streets, relying on her wits and her friend Vince to help her find places to sleep and food to eat.

The city's quieter now that most people are gone, and no one seems to know what to do as the end approaches. But then Emerson and Vince meet Carl, who tells them that he has been granting people's wishes. He gave his car away so a woman could take her son to see the ocean for the first time, and he gives Emerson and Vince all the money he has in his wallet.

Suddenly this last day seems full of possibility. Emerson and Vince can grant a lot of wishes in twenty-seven hours—maybe even their own.
"Pay it forward, if you can. Look for those who have wishes or regrets."
Panic rises up, and Emerson realizes she doesn't want to be here. She starts to run, heading back the way they came.
She remembers Vince's words. "I just want it to be easy."
There is nothing easy about this, she realizes. Not a single thing.

The biggest disappointment about this book was that it actually sounded inspirational and intriguing in its sci-fi backdrop. An impending apocalypse combined with a mission from a stranger to spend the last day on Earth performing random acts of kindness—excellent. Add to that a developing "romance" between two teenage outcasts who've been surviving on the streets and only have each other—I really thought this story could have gone somewhere.

Unfortunately, it was subpar in pretty much every literary criteria. The cheesy and uneventful character interactions, story line, and so-called "inspirational" message actually had me wondering how exactly this could sit well with any reader. Unless you are a 10-year-old who has never experienced real-life conflict involving family, friends, and romantic love, I'm confident you'd read this and feel the same way. I cringed at a lot of the dialogue, and got really, really exasperated by the time I finished the last page.

Schroeder's writing itself is not incredibly flawed, but that's a pretty basic statement because it isn't profound or particularly thoughtful either. Her prose lacks an engaging element that I'd associate with a pre-apocalyptic and/or teen-oriented novel, and I feel the randomly interspersed pages of verse are unseasoned, as well. Most writers can get away with underdeveloped prose, but in poetry, the quality of writing shows. And I was shown how poor it was all throughout the book.

The worst part is the stilted and superbly unrealistic/cringe-worthy dialogue scenes. And before you try to argue that it's sci-fi, it isn't supposed to be realistic—that's not what I mean. Obviously "end of the world" stories aren't meant to be realistic contemporary fiction, but they should still immerse a reader into the fictional setting. All We Have Is Now failed miserable at doing this overall.

Emerson and Vince are supposedly each other's "one and only" (although not initially in a romantic way), but their dialogue is stiff and gives me secondhand embarrassment:
"Where'd you learn to dance anyway?" Emerson teases. "A cute girl teach you?"
His eyes turn cold and he stares straight ahead. "No. Nothing like that. If you have to know, it was my mom."
Not only are Vince and Emerson poorly portrayed, but they're also VERY difficult to like and relate to, mostly because I found a lot of their characteristics to be inconsistent. For instance, Vince is the smooth-talking "cool" black guy whom Emerson doesn't realize she's in love with, but he has strange bouts of emotional outbursts, and can be really pushy and obnoxious. Emerson is the troubled runaway who is afraid to reconcile with her estranged family, but she's prude, whiny, equally as unnecessarily emotional, and just plain stupid at times. I'm not saying that to be offensive; she seriously reads like a one-dimensional cartoon character:
"Don't do that," Emerson says through gritted teeth. "Don't insult my intelligence, Mr. Say-One-Thing-and-Do-Another."
"Wait. Are you, like, mad right now?" Kat asks [and] holds out her hands as if to say, What's the big deal? (....lol) "But why?"
Vince crosses his arms. "I'd actually like to know the answer to that question, too."
"You guys left me out here while you did who-knows-what in that bed that isn't even yours," Emerson yells. "I mean, gross! And rude." (..LOL!)
Vince steps forward, tries to touch her, but she steps back. "Girl, come on. You know it wasn't like that."
This one just cracks me up. Every time a character speaks, you think that's the punchline but it just keeps getting better and better.

I could have gotten over the unpleasant characters (maybe) but what bothered me even more was the story itself. Yes, it starts off as a provocative Mitch Albom-esque plot, but turns into something I became weary of immediately. The ending takes a 180° turn and (if you can't guess it already), here's a quick spoiler to get off my chest: SPOILER START (highlight the white text to view): The conclusion isn't dark and wish-welcoming like the synopsis suggests. In fact, the apocalypse turns out to be a government hoax to teach US citizens a lesson to appreciate what they have (WTF!) and everything returns to normal the next day. No end of the world, no lives lost, no deep, dark, revealing, or even remotely inspirational matter. Just a bunch of psychological effing-up. Literally that's what we encounter about 80% of the way in, and then there's a bunch of happy endings (yaaaayy) and a ridiculous last chapter. :SPOILER END. A better writer COULD have even made this ending jaw-dropping or uplifting in some sort of way, but Schroeder accomplished neither. The construction of the conclusion itself was poor, with very unlikely conflict resolutions that occur in a couple pages (that happens in real life?!) and a rushed, cheesy, and very unbelievable ending.

I didn't see it coming because I refused to even believe that the author would take a turn like that... it was completely out of the realm of possibility... and then it happened -_-

Pros


Appropriate for younger YA or middle-grade audiences (very clean "romance," and even the darker themes are portrayed lightly with a definite resolution) // Inspiring message about appreciating what you have // Extremely easy to read and flows well

Cons


Pretty much everything else: Stylized and very basic, unimpressive writing // Numerous unsuccessful attempts to be profound and engaging // Character interactions, action scenes, and overall plot (especially the ending) are difficult to believe // The verse portions don't have ANY effect on me; I could have gotten the same thing out of this book without them // The budding "romance" (romance in quotations throughout this entire review because I don't really even consider it one) between Vince and Emerson just doesn't make sense // Emerson is unlikable, unrelatable (typically characters are one or the other), shallowly written, talks in a ridiculous, childish way, has random inappropriate mood swings etc. etc. etc. // Vince is just as bad: tremendously cheesy, unbelievable, has similar weird mood swings (I know they're teenagers and all but c'mon...) // The worst ending/conclusion plot twist ever

Love

The best kind of days are the ones that make you feel like you are living inside a kaleidoscope, twirling and swirling with dazzling joy.

Verdict


Unfortunately All We Have Is Now has very few redeeming qualities; it was unimpressive and quite cringe-worthy in almost every way. The characters are neither endearing nor enduring, the plot-line is very quick to resolve and painfully anticlimactic, and the ending just sealed the deal, leaving me dumbfounded (and NOT in a good way!). I feel like my standards have gotten much higher since when I first started reviewing, because I probably would have given this a decent 2.5-star rating previously; now, however, I'm just getting tired of tolerating stilted action and unintentional character flaws. While the suggested readership audience is ages 12-18, I would recommend it more for ages 10-14—if you even decide to pick this book up—because of its unrealistically optimistic plot and empty characters (maybe middle schoolers won't notice). My opinion may not sit well with Lisa Schroeder readers, as I know she has a large YA fan base, but I simply didn't like this book, even though it was a quick-paced and uncomplicated read Americanflag

3 hearts: Not a fan; I don't recommend this book (x)