Book Review: We Didn't Ask for This by Aldi Alsaid

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: A book about or involving social media Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A...

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: A book about or involving social media

Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book that's published in 2020, A bildungsroman, A book that passes the Bechdel test, A book by or about a journalist, A book with a character with a vision impairment or enhancement (adv)

TW: Hostage situation, sexism, homophobia, serious injury, death

We Didn't Ask for This is such a smart, relevant, and timely YA novel that I think so many could benefit from reading. It's about standing up for what it right, and making a statement when you know that you need to be heard.

Maria Cuevas loves the reefs. She's been diving into them for as long as she can remember. But when she realized the reefs aren't nearly as beautiful as they were 20 years ago, that coral reefs around the world are in fact dying and fading into extinction, she knew she had to fight for change. She decides that Central International School's lock-in night is the perfect opportunity. CIS's lock-in night is the stuff dreams are made of. It's life-changing - the night people make best friends, fall in love, party like there's no tomorrow. So when Maria and her "cronies" chain themselves to all the school's exits, they disrupt the entire lock-in night itinerary, causing their classmates to take notice, then maybe the rest of the world. 

I'm a big fan of, um, not reading synopses before reading books. I had no idea what We Didn't Ask for This was about when I requested it via Goodreads. I just really liked the cover. But I am so glad to have had a chance to read it, because it exceeded my expectations.

The entire premise of the book is fantastic. It's a fun YA setting - a high school lock-in that is known to be "life-changing." There are a slew of various, diverse characters - athletes, theatre kids, loners/outcasts, activists, popular kids, etc. But they're each intersectional, and not just stereotypical typecasts of characters. And they're each so smart in their different ways. I think this book says a lot about teenagers and their influence on changing the world.

I loved the mini stories within the big picture story. The characters are so easy to connect with, and I loved their connections to each other. It was really charming and raw.

I will say the writing was pretty confusing at times though. The book is written from an omniscient perspective, but it focuses on different characters throughout different paragraphs, which got really difficult to understand sometimes. It wasn't broken down into chapters from different characters, or anything like that, so it was an adjustment each time a new character came into focus, and it made the storytelling feel a bit chunky. I would have really liked a different format for characters' perspectives, or from the story to be told from each of their point-of-views. It was just set up and formatted weirdly, which lowered my rating and led me closer to a 3/3.5 for my rating. But I just liked the story and characters so much that a 4-star rating felt truly more accurate for me.

"Maria was clawing at the earth, fighting for dirt's right to exist among so much human garbage." - We Didn't Ask for This, Aldi Alsaid

I will continue to rave over this book. The characters are smart, determined, relatable, passionate, driven - they're just really fantastic characters. The writing was really poetic at times, but sometimes weird and chunky, and the constant character-focused perspectives made it difficult to keep up with what was happening and who was who at times. But overall, this story is incredibly timely and relevant, and I highly recommend this book for the story of it all.

Goodreads rating: ★★★★☆

*I was a Goodreads giveaway winner for a copy of this book. All opinions are entirely my own.

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