Like Never and Always by Ann Aguirre
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Ann Aguirre is one of my favorite authors. I have her Sirantha Jax series (space opera), her Razorland series (post-apocalyptic young adult), and her Corine Solomon series (urban fantasy). This is a standalone, I think, and it's one of the best books she's ever written.
It's also hard to describe without spoilers, because the central MacGuffin, the event that tips it from a contemporary YA into a fantasy one, is in and of itself a massive spoiler. (Yes, I know other reviews, and even the book's own jacket copy, have let this slip. I'm not going to join in.) Some people might balk at referring to this as a fantasy, because other than the MacGuffin, it is set firmly in our day. I suppose one could call it "magical realism," of the I Will Believe One Impossible Thing Before Breakfast sort. The One Thing is granted at the beginning of the story, the story goes on from there, and no actual explanation is provided, although a couple of theories are floated. In the end, the One Thing, in a sense, doesn't really matter, because the story isn't about that. It's about friendship; and one best friend living and the other friend dying; and survivors' guilt; and whether we really know the ones we love; and the secrets we hide, even from the people closest to us.
It's also a beautiful, emotional story, with stellar characterization (and a rather adult take on sex, for an ostensibly young-adult novel). There are a couple of thriller-ish plot twists, but the story's focus isn't on that. The focus is on the journey these characters take after the MacGuffin has turned their lives inside out. This is a wonderful book, and dammit, it should be up for awards.
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