Book Review: It Wasn’t Always Like This by Joy Preble

It Wasn't Always Like ThisIt Wasn’t Always Like This
Joy Preble
Soho Teen, May 2016
ISBN 978-1-61695-588-5

Before I even begin to address what this book is about, I must mention how it is presented.  Emma shares her saga by keeping the reader with her for the present and reminiscing about the past.  As a person who has been keeping secrets for a century or so, the deliberation and consideration with what and how much she reveals makes her seem like an unreliable narrator.  An added layer of intrigue.

On the one hand, this ferociously independent young woman seems a bit self-absorbed,  possibly paranoid.  On the other, as Steve Earle says, “Just ‘cause you ain’t paranoid, it don’t mean they ain’t out to get ya’ !”

“Emma O’Neill was like a lightning rod for weirdness, for the dark things that most people never saw.”

Initially, Emma seemed aloof….almost unapproachable.  Perhaps, partly because of the unreliable narrator aspect, but more than that, an underlying, inexplicable anger-angst undertone emanated. Peculiar for a main character; perfect for this story.  Not only does it subtly, yet surely, secure “Present-Day-Emma” and “Past-Emma” in the reader’s mind allowing the story to flow smoothly; but it allows the reader to truly develop an understanding of why “Present-Day-Emma” is precisely the person she is.  Pure genius, Ms. Preble.

Although Emma alone could carry this narrative; the love of her life, Charlie, also forever seventeen, softens her edges.  With the good, comes the bad and Kingsley Lloyd, sometimes-successful con-man-at-best and Glen Walters, leader of the Church of Light, could give the Boogeyman the creeps.  Captivating characters tangled in a string of murders stretching out over the past century create a quick and compelling read.

Instead of attempting to articulate what the book is about, I’ll just put this out there:

The searchers for The Fountain of Youth seem to be seeking their own eternal life. 

What if the families who drank from The Fountain thought they were drinking potential polio prevention?

Reviewed by jv poore, May 2016.