We Are Inevitable by Gayle Forman. Viking, 2021. 9780425290804
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3
Genre: Realistic fiction
What did you like about the book? Bluebird Books in the state of Washington represents Aaron Stein’s patrimony, the result of his parents’ bankruptcy and marital dissolution after his brother Sandy’s death from a drug overdose. And it’s not an inheritance he wanted, as it comes with a crumbling infrastructure, his father Ira’s depression, and the town’s general malaise. He compulsively re-reads a book about the extinction of the dinosaurs, forgoing college and stranded without friends, with his only source of potential income the large collection of vintage vinyl left behind by Sandy. Everything changes when he runs into Chad, a former classmate who’s wheelchair-bound after a snowboarding accident, and meets Hannah, the sexy front woman for a rock band. A half-hearted attempt to build a ramp into the bookstore for Chad cascades into various townspeople switching into rescue-mode, although ever the pessimist, Aaron decides to secretly sell the building to a local magnate. The fast pace of change plus the revelation that Hannah is a recovering addict throw him into a tailspin, but ultimately there’s an ending that’s just happy enough without tipping into rom-com sweetness. Forman is exploring an interesting question about inevitability: do we choose our fate or are we subject to it? I always love stories about readers and bookstores and Forman names each chapter after a book, plus lists all the titles she’s name dropped as back matter. There’s also information about how to find help for addiction challenges. All main characters cue as White, although a nurse named Bev who’s Black shows up halfway through to issue some mental health and business advice. Chad develops a relationship with Hannah’s nonbinary bandmate Jaxx, who uses the they/them pronouns.
Anything you didn’t like about it? I didn’t like Aaron very much. Obviously he’s stressed by the weight of his responsibilities, guilt over his brother’s death, and a self-induced separation from his mom, but his character dependably reacted negatively to everything, which became tiresome. I also found most of the characters to be thinly drawn, although Chad was the bright spot in the narrative.
To whom would you recommend this book? Fans of Forman’s blockbuster, If I Stay, and her other books may want to give Inevitable a try. I would recommend this book to fans of John Green, David Levithan, and Rachel Cohn, grades 9 and up.
Who should buy this book? High school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? YA fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: September 4, 2021