It Wasn't Always Like This

It Wasn't Always Like This

Book - 2016
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In love and possessing eternal youth, after sampling an experimental polio vaccine in 1916, seventeen-year-olds Emma and Charlie have the perfect life until Charlie disappears and Emma is hunted through the years by the Church of Light, a group of religious fanatics.
Publisher: New York : Soho Teen, [2016]
ISBN: 9781616955885
Branch Call Number: YA PREBLE
Characteristics: 245 pages ; 22 cm
Alternative Title: It was not always like this


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It Wasn’t Always Like This is an exciting ride full of suspense and mystery. While some elements in the novel feel rather underdeveloped, the plot is certainly far from boring and makes the reading experience rather enjoyable. The book introduces us to an immortal girl Emma O’Niell, whose family suffered from tragic consequences due to their immortality and religious fanaticism in early twentieth century. Now in present time Emma has become a private investigator and is trying to solve a series of murder – the victims of which look uncannily like Emma. This premise kickstarts an exciting plot as the readers are constantly brought back in time then back to present time again as we unveil Emma’s story with the Church of Light. The writing style makes this book appealing. There are clues and flashbacks insert subtly throughout the novel, and I found myself wanting to learn more. The author also successfully creates an unsettling atmosphere that I enjoy. The vivid imagery kept the readers uneasy and anxious for more clues, and I felt as though I was with Emma in past and present, in Texas and Florida, experiencing all her emotions with her. On top of that Emma is a likeable and well developed protagonist; she is independent and strong, yet at times she gives into her emotions too. That makes the character very realistic and relatable. The exceptional pacing, interesting plot, the atmosphere and well developed characters are all reasons that I enjoyed reading the book. The great characterization does not extend to all the characters, however. Emma’s love interest, Charlie, feels one-dimensional. While he is not the main focus of the story, there is not enough to remember about. That makes the romance subplot unconvincing too, because Emma looking for Charlie becomes unnecessary when the investigation and even the Church of Light seems more interesting and crucial to the plot than Charlie. Overall this is a book that will surely be enjoyed if you appreciate mystery and suspense, and elements like characterization and mood are extremely well done besides one character. Be sure to read this if you are looking for a different and exciting reading experience!
(Reviewed by Sarah S. for the Cloverdale Teen Book Review Project)


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