Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary YA romance with supernatural elements from Sharon Takaoka. EVERYTHING I THOUGHT I KNEW features a girl coping with the physical and emotional upheaval in her life following a heart transplant.
Seventeen-year-old Chloe had a plan: work hard, get good grades, and attend a top-tier college. But after she collapses during cross-country practice and is told that she needs a new heart, all her careful preparations are laid to waste.
Eight months after her transplant, everything is different. Stuck in summer school with the underachievers, all she wants to do now is grab her surfboard and hit the waves—which is strange, because she wasn’t interested in surfing before her transplant. (It doesn’t hurt that her instructor, Kai, is seriously good-looking.)
And that’s not all that’s strange. There’s also the vivid recurring nightmare about crashing a motorcycle in a tunnel and memories of people and places she doesn’t recognize.
Is there something wrong with her head now, too, or is there another explanation for what she’s experiencing?
As she searches for answers, and as her attraction to Kai intensifies, what she learns will lead her to question everything she thought she knew—about life, death, love, identity, and the true nature of reality.
Chloe is a senior in high school, on the cross-country team and in the AP classes. It’s fall and she’s prepping her applications. She’s made all the right academic and social moves to guarantee her admission to an amazing college of her own choosing, but a heart defect puts all her many and detailed plans on hold. Near Christmas she is saved by a donor heart, and we fast forward to the summer, because her recovery blotted out the majority of her senior spring and she is now in summer school to complete her courses and graduate. Chloe’s friends are moving on, planning a summer of fun before they start college, and she’s adrift. Nightmares claim her giving her glimpses of a tunnel and crash. Is this a memory of her own? Or one from her donor?
She’s never made time for recreation, but she feels inexplicably called to the ocean, and surfing. She finds a private instructor and plans lessons for a time when she’s supposed to be at the library. She also befriends Jane, another senior whose failed school because she just doesn’t care. Her family life is broken and she’s in need of attention however she can find it. Jane’s a party girl and she doesn’t mind bringing the staid Chloe on her adventures in San Francisco. But, most importantly, she begins to connect deeply with her surfing instructor, Kai, who has his own secrets.
Chloe’s growing strength and independence lead her to reach out to her donor’s family–who wants no contact. Seeking closure, and a reason behind the nightmares and memories that are not her own, causes Chloe to impinge on the privacy of the grieving, and alienate herself from those few people who have stood with her. It’s a 180 from her “before” life, and it’s in ways both empowering and self-destructive.
This story is like others written and reported from organ donors, of the liminal spaces between life and death, memory and experience. There are some odd and different twists here, and I think I struggled with the final reveal of Chloe’s true donor. For me, it crossed boundaries that brought in the supernatural–which was beyond what the plot supported. I thought I was getting a romance with soul-searching, but once the twists started to unravel I couldn’t shake the feeling those coincidental clues just didn’t all add up. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good read. I think that it was, and there were lots of powerful and poignant moments of connection that teens and adults who like teen reads could appreciate. It’s sex-innocent, though there are situations of excessive drinking and getting high, so I wouldn’t call it “clean” per se. I recommend it with the caveat that end is not “happy” in the YA romance-sense though the resolution is complete.
About the Author:
Shannon Takaoka is a young adult fiction author who loves books (of course) and all things nerdy. (Time travel? Weird science-y stuff? Alternate realities? Yes, please.) She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two children and one very needy dog. Her debut novel, EVERYTHING I THOUGHT I KNEW, about a 17-year-old girl questioning everything about who she is and who she wants to be following a heart transplant, will be published by Candlewick Press in 2020 and Walker UK in 2021.
Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!