Don’t Ever Change
by M. Beth Bloom
Expected Publication Date: July 7, 2015
Length: 368 pages
Obtained Via: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
View at the Traffic light:
Eva has always wanted to write a modern classic—one that actually appeals to her generation. The only problem is that she has realized she can’t “write what she knows” because she hasn’t yet begun to live. So before heading off to college, Eva is determined to get a life worth writing about.
Soon Eva’s life encounters a few unexpected plot twists. She becomes a counselor at a nearby summer camp—a job she is completely unqualified for. She starts growing apart from her best friends before they’ve even left for school. And most surprising of all, she begins to fall for the last guy she would have ever imagined. But no matter the roadblocks, or writer’s blocks, it is all up to Eva to figure out how she wants this chapter in her story to end.
Perfect for fans of E. Lockhart, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell, Don’t Ever Change is a witty, snarky, and thought-provoking coming-of-age young adult novel about a teen who sets out to write better fiction and, ultimately, discovers the truth about herself.
Don’t Ever Change had moments of promise, but ultimately after reading I was left wondering where the story was. A random collection of scenes do not a story make, and that’s what I felt like Don’t Ever Change was. Eva, a teen writer, graduates high school and gets a job as a day camp counselor while trying to learn more about the world in order to serve her writing and then has friend and relationship drama on the side. There was rarely progress or momentum and what was on the page just mostly felt strange.
There were many issues I had with Don’t Ever Change, but the main one I think was that the characters never felt grounded in any sort of life. When you pick up a book, you’re starting to see what’s normally a very small section of a character’s life. They have past experiences that affect them and aspirations for the future. A reader gets to immerse themselves in a story for a part of that character’s life, but it’s still generally just a part. And I didn’t feel like Eva really had a life outside of what was presented in Don’t Ever Change. Sure, every once in awhile there would be references to her future college or mentions of things that happened in the past, but it didn’t feel enough to root her to anything. World-building is needed in contemporaries too, and I didn’t think Don’t Ever Change really had a world.
That aside, Eva was just. . . infuriating. I try to be incredibly cautious as to how I speak about female teen characters, because so often female characters get scrutinized to a ridiculous extent. They’re not allowed to be mean or make mistakes or be anything but “nice” or “likable”, so whenever I had trouble with a female main character, I make attempts to make sure my reaction isn’t part of my internal bias. I’ve loved several books with mean or “unlikable” characters before. Likability isn’t a factor for my enjoyment of a book, but my problem with Eva wasn’t that she was unlikable–it was mostly that her character arc didn’t seem to go anywhere.
I had hopes for Eva because of the whole teen writer thing, but Eva is pretentious. She, somehow, manages to be the female, teen equivalent of the Guy in your MFA twitter. I didn’t mind this at first because of course, the idea of a novel is that a character grows and changes over the course of it. . . but Eva didn’t, really.
I also had a LOT of issues with the way the day camp Eva works at was incorporated into the story. I went to overnight and day camps for ten years of my life, was a camp activities counselor once, and a day camp counselor for two summers in a row. I’m aware that camps have different policies, but a camp would NOT have been run like the one portrayed in the book because it was just lawsuit after lawsuit waiting to happen. Eva is really the worst camp counselor ever, but I didn’t have a problem with that because she(and the other counselors) know she’s not very good at it. What I did have issues with was how often Eva and other counselors left their kids alone and there were never consequences for it. They seem to have all the time in the world to go off on their own and make-out. All I could think was “Wow, I hope all these kid’s parents sue this camp for everything they have” because it was so incredibly irresponsible. And I didn’t have issues with the characters being irresponsible as much as I did that it was just way too convenient for them to even have the opportunity for them to be that irresponsible.
Then there was the romance. I’m not the kind of reader who hates love triangles or multiple romantic interest on principles, but the way romance was handled in Don’t Ever Change just felt weird to me. I think part of it was what I mentioned in the beginning of my review about how I felt Eva wasn’t grounded in any sort of world within the novel. I didn’t understand her character motivations, so everything just felt off. Eva has two primary romantic interests and then also considers(and goes on a date with) a third. She makes out with one of her romantic interests while calling the other her boyfriend–even though they have the combined chemistry of a rock and pocket lint. And in the end, while there was resolution in terms of action, it didn’t feel resolved in terms of story.
Really, “didn’t feel resolved in terms of story” could pretty be my entire review for this book. Surprisingly, I actually was loving this book for the first 40%. It didn’t start to go off the rails until about the halfway mark, and then everything just. . dissolved into some puddle of plot and characterization.
I enjoyed the beginning of this story, but in the end I just had SO MANY issues with it. 2/5 cupcakes.