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Review: This Can Never Not Be Real by Sera Milano

Review: This Can Never Not Be Real by Sera Milano

‘In the unremarkable town of Amberside, the unthinkable has happened: Terrorists have attacked a local festival. No one knows why, and no one knows who the attackers are, but that doesn’t matter. What matters first is survival. And what matters after that is survival, too.

In this brilliantly written account of hope, humour and humanity, five ordinary teenagers are caught up in a truly extraordinary situation. It’s a heart-pounding and gripping account of the fight for survival as the attackers prowl the festival grounds, told from multiple perspectives.

This is a book for teenagers facing the barrage of bleak reports that fill our newsfeeds and for anyone who needs to see that behind the hate that makes the headlines, there is always love.’

This Can Never Not Be Real is one of those books that you simply can’t put down, yet are afraid of what each page turn might bring for characters who are easy to care for and written so that the reader very quickly grows attached to them, and not only because of the urgency of the events that are happening around them. That the narrative is written in a manner that switches points of view very frequently, yet feels like smooth and continuous prose, makes it swiftly and incredibly immersive, not sparing a moment to rest and so evoking the panic and uncertainty of the situation that the characters find themselves in. I did try to put the book down, but was back to it in less than five minutes, as I just had to know what was going to happen and was genuinely agitated (in a way that reflects positively on the writing) that I didn’t know how characters were going to survive. That their points of view exist must suggest that they live is something that I had to keep reminding myself of, as nothing feels certain, but that fact alone says nothing of what they are going to go through to get there.

Of all the perspectives, I’m not sure that I would pick a ‘favourite’, but I loved Violet and Peaches in particular. I adored Violet’s love for her family and both she and Ellie growing into their realisations about each other and that things they may have assumed are not necessarily true; their growing closer and quietly understanding that there is the potential for more than friendship between them, but what is first and foremost is that they care for each other and choose to be supportive through everything that they learn about the other. Violet seems quiet and unassuming, and she makes some painful comments about how easily she is overlooked and how teachers mistake her for other girls simply because they share the same skin colour (something no child should have to tolerate at school). She is kind and clever and dedicated and sweet, and despite all that happens to her, she stays so. Okay, maybe I have picked a favourite!

That the terrorists in the story aren’t given the ‘air time’ to explain themselves or express why they have attacked people is something I was glad of. They aren’t identified as any one group or with a particular purpose, and no ideology is presented as reason or excuse, for, as the characters themselves and the author says, there is no excuse for terrorism.

I’m generally not one for tears when reading, unless it’s to do with characters I’ve been attached to for many years, but I admit I did cry at the end of This Can Never Not Be Real. It is a brilliant read that packs a real punch, keeping hope, affection and love at its centre, and is beautifully crafted with evident care in handling such a range of sensitive subjects. Out on April 29th, this is one of the year’s essential reads and I sincerely recommend getting a copy and setting aside the time to read it in its entirety.

Thank you, Electric Monkey Books, for sending me a copy for review!