Book review · novel

Book review: Everything All at Once

Everything All at Once, by Katrina Leno

sept18Description: (from Harper Collins)

When Lottie’s beloved Aunt Helen dies of cancer, it upends her careful, quiet life.

Aunt Helen wasn’t a typical aunt. She was the world-famous author of the bestselling Alvin Hatter series. She knew a thing or two about the magic of writing, and how words have the power to make you see things differently.

In her will, Aunt Helen leaves Lottie a series of letters—each containing mysterious instructions. As Lottie sets about following them, she realizes they’re meant to make her take a risk, and, for once in her life, really live. But when the letters reveal an extraordinary secret about her aunt’s past—and the inspiration for the Alvin Hatter series—Lottie finds herself faced with an impossible choice, one that will force her to confront her greatest fears once and for all.

I really really loved this book. I love when the main focus in Young Adult novels isn’t romance, when family dynamics and friendship are front and center. That’s the case here! Plus, the main character is very bookish, suffers from anxiety and has to deal with a lot of feelings and invasive thoughts. So it almost felt like it was written for me at times.

It isn’t a very fun novel because it is mainly about grieving, letting go, about asking for help, about growing up.
It isn’t overly sad either. I did shed some tears, but it is a book that made me smile more than it made me cry.

I read this book in one setting, it wouldn’t let me go. I was glued to the pages, to the beautiful words (at times even very funny) and the cosy feelings it gave me every time Lottie snuggled in bed to read her favourite books.

“The moment I started reading, I was no longer in my bedroom, no longer sad, no longer even myself.”

I was a bit afraid from the blurb on the cover that this would be too much about dares that Lottie has to make and that would make her uncomfortable, but it never crossed any big line, she was in control and able to make choices, pushing herself a bit on one occasion. Her anxiety and her introverted nature never changed/weren’t “cured” just because she went in little adventures and followed her aunt’s letters. So I guess the book cover would have been better without the blurb that could mislead readers. The book isn’t that much about those “dares” (and there’s nothing extreme about them) but mainly about the aunt’s letters giving Lottie a little help, since she knew Lottie would be struggling “harder” than the rest of the family.

“I’d had my first anxiety attack when I was only eleven, and it was Aunt Helen who knew what it was, who knew I wasn’t having a heart attack, who sat me down on her couch and explained to me that she had those feelings as well, those feelings of being overwhelmed, those feelings of being paralyzed.”

To continue on the matter of the book cover, I quite like it. But I feel it doesn’t show that well the feel of the book. This is more of a cosy book than an adventure book. I love how it’s near the ocean (on the Connecticut coast) and there’s a few scenes happening at the beach. That would have made a perfect summer read! But, while I do like the cover in itself, I think that’s the reason I never picked it up earlier, I wasn’t expecting this book to be the way it was. I wish it showed more how much it revolves around books.

There is a mysterious boy but his presence and the hints at romance are very light, there was nothing cheesy (let it be clear that I have nothing against nice cheesy stories, it’s just that this one wasn’t one, which I also like), Lottie herself refusing to label her feelings at one point.

Everything All At Once reminded me a bit of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. They share the same formula of an anxious bookworm finding peace in books. There also are – between chapters – a few excerpts of the fantasy series her aunt wrote and that she and the world so deeply love. It’s obviously taking inspiration from the Harry Potter phenomenon and J.K. Rowling’s famous status (which actually made me a bit sad and uncomfortable at first, imagining how the world would react to JKR’s death) but without making such an obvious fanfiction out of it. The kids in this book series achieve immortality and are looking for their parents. Some of the passages are echoed in the actual story and we can understand some of the references Lottie makes thanks to those (short!) excerpts.
So I think that what most people liked about Fangirl back in the day can be found in this one too 🙂 Without the added stress of the weird relationship Cat had with her family. Lottie has much more support around her and I guess it made it even nicer to read for me.

“Break some rules. Hurt no one.”

Everything all at once is a book with a dash of the unexpected, a book so very hard to review because some things are best left unsaid and discovered without knowing to. This is a book that book lovers (and maybe especially potterheads) will feel welcomed into, recognise themselves and smile at.

SO to conclude, I greatly recommend this book if you like

  • Books about books and book lovers
  • Books about feelings and complicated thoughts and questions like the meaning of life
  • Mental health issues > anxiety disorder + panic attacks
  • Healthy relationships involving nice parents, aweome best friend + female friendship
  • Main character reading bittersweet letters from a deceased beloved relative
  • Mystery, a hint at old secrets
  • Plot twist (that I totally didn’t see coming, but some might)
  • Slow-paced books
  • Pop-culture and bookish references
  • Texting! I don’t understand why there isn’t more texting in YA novels because that something teens and young adults do A LOT now. This book used that well
  • Diversity in the characters: Lottie is Peruvian on her mother’s side, her bestfriend has a girlfriend, a side character uses “they/them” pronouns, a side character has a form of dwarfism, etc.

And here’s a pinterest board I made while reading the book ❤

Content warning: homophobic parent of a side character, dark invasive thoughts (could be read as suicidal at times?)



8 thoughts on “Book review: Everything All at Once

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