All I had to do to be interested in Every Reason We Shouldn’t was see the cover and hear skating. Ever since “Cutting Edge” I have been fascinated by skating! But Every Reason We Shouldn’t was a mixed bag of emotions for me.
Warning: Contains family expectations, delightful banter, great romantic tension, skating (all kinds!), Korean pastries, and all the feels.
Fifteen-year-old, biracial figure skater Olivia Kennedy’s Olympic dreams have ended. She’s bitter, but enjoying life as a regular teenager instead of an athlete… until Jonah Choi starts training at her family’s struggling rink. Jonah’s driven, talented, going for the Olympics in speed skating, completely annoying… and totally gorgeous.
Between teasing Jonah, helping her best friend try out for roller derby, figuring out life as a normal teen and keeping the family business running, Olivia’s got her hands full. But will rivalry bring her closer to Jonah, or drive them apart?
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: Restrictive eating, School lock down, family member with chronic pain
I was initially drawn to Every Reason We Shouldn’t for a few reasons. Number one, skating. Ever since “Cutting Edge” I will read anything ice skating focused and this certainly fills a niche. That being said, there isn’t that same romantic, will-they-won’t-they as in that film and there aren’t pair competitions so just know that the only comp between those is that there are just two characters who are skating professionals (speed skating and pairs figure skating).
Number two, I thought this was going to be an ownvoices biracial/Asian rep situation. You can say I should have done more research before reading, but only when I sat down to write this review did I find out that it is not ownvoices rep. Instead it is written from the perspective of, presumably a white, woman who married a Japanese partner with biracial children. She wanted to write the rep that her children wish they saw. I also want to say I am not a biracial Asian American so I also do not have an ownvoices perspective. I have thoughts on this but I’ll save that for later on.
Let’s start with what I liked about Every Reason We Shouldn’t. The scenes on the ice were great. I loved that it gives you a skating scene whether that be the competition or the feeling of being free on the ice. I ice skate for fun, but I have loved that feeling of weightlessness, of gliding. Secondly, I liked that both Jonah and Olivia are handling this life of being an aspiring professional – training all the time and intensely goal oriented – but also what a ‘teenage’ experience might be.
That being said, Johan and Olivia’s situations are a bit different because while Jonah is actively training, much of Olivia’s character growth goes into her decisions on her own skating career. Does she want to be a skater without her partner? What does her own career look like now? Does Olivia have what it takes to re-evaluate her career?
And finally, I loved the side character of Mack. She’s a single mother who loves roller derby and wants to join a team. Can you get any better than that? She’s also almost a surrogate mother to Olivia and is Olivia’s best friends. My favorite scenes have to be when Mack is there or they are in the derby rink.
I feel like the summary makes it seem like there will be this long drawn out angst – sort of “Cutting Edge” vibes – and if you were prepared for that, then just re-evaluate your expectations. I’ve read a few people say that the romance story line is anti-climactic especially since part of the Goodreads summary states: “Warning: Contains family expectations, delightful banter, great romantic tension, skating (all kinds!), Korean pastries, and all the feels”. So just approach each of the above elements separately.
I also felt like the latter half of Every Reason We Shouldn’t sort of felt loosely connected. The pacing took a different turn, but it also felt like all these elements and events were introduced which were never fully resolved. I can’t list a lot of examples because that would be infringing on spoiler territory, but Olivia has a lot of tension with her parents. Her mother suffers from chronic pain that is debilitating and has affected Olivia’s experiences on the daily. But while it’s a piece of the story and her family, I was missing some resolution regarding Olivia’s relationship to her parents.
With two aspiring professionals, or even just two people in any relationship, you can encounter one person thinking their career might be more important. I think this is such a great point to bring up, especially with two athletes (and something I’ve struggled a lot with in the past), but I just wish there was a more satisfying resolution.
I want to make this very clear, I am not biracial so I cannot speak to the accuracy of the representation. I couldn’t find an ownvoices review to cite either. Definitely go into Every Reason We Shouldn’t, knowing it’s not ownvoices representation. Having read the acknowledgements, I also am unclear on whether there were sensitivity readers. In order to talk more about the representation or specific events, I’d have to go back and read again with that lens. Without finding ownvoices voices, I do not have any frame of reference to talk about whether this is ‘good’ or authentic representation.
I do want to mention that in terms of representation, Olivia and Jonah’s biracial/multi-racial identity is brought up quite a lot. It’s been a bit since I read the book, but as someone who’s life has been deeply touched as being Asian, I do not have any real notes about the ways their identity was mentioned in a deep way. By that I mean, in Our Wayward Fate Chao talks a lot about growing up in the minority and what it means about the jokes people make, the ways we self-erase and internalize.
The deep and profound ways our experience is changed. And I cannot remember any ways in which this was mentioned in Every Reason We Shouldn’t. I didn’t just finish so I want to apologize in advance if I’ve missed something as I’m so behind on reviews.
I also want to make it clear that I am not saying that all books which feature POC characters have to be books that revolve solely around their identity or are “issue” books, I just wanted to give a comparison to some other books I have read. We deserve fun fluffy contemporary romances, messy characters, questions on every level.
As someone who has struggled to find representation in books and the YA sphere specifically as a transracial adoptee, I know how hard it is. I am in no way trying to invalidate Fujimara’s desire to write representation that would have helped her children growing up or feel represented in the YA sphere. I also deeply identify with the struggle finding Asian representation. I just wanted to make sure other readers did not go into this thinking that it would be ownvoices like I did.