Monday 2 May 2022

This Can Never Not Be Real - Sera Milano


This Can Never Not Be Real shares the fictional experiences of initially four - Joe, Ellie, Violet, Peaches (then five) teenagers following a terrorist attack on a local festival. What follows is a series of "testimonies" from each of the teenagers as they recall the events of the night and what followed. 

Although Chapter One begins with each recollection headed in the following style -  Testimony of Joseph (Joe) Mead, 17 - and then a brief statement from the character. The following recollections for that character are just headed Joe - which I took to mean it came from a more personal experience of the character hence the emotions and detail rather than legal testimony. There are also a couple of places where there are testimonies from Police Officers - I think just to give you an idea of what is happening on the outside. 

Each chapter has multiple points of view - Chapter 1 has 35 different sections, as the POV changes. You always know which character is "speaking" as the sections are headed with their name. I wish the voices had been a little more distinct but this style certainly helps immerse you in the chaos and confusion of the situation.

It is a harrowing read, there is a trigger warning in the front of the book which tells you "...this story involves  descriptions of violence and the aftermath of violence including serious injury and death. The book also deals with suicide, some discussion of racial and faith based micro-aggressions and negative body image."

I make notes as I'm reading and for page 20 I made the note - "incredibly upsetting, intense and powerful" And I'm not going to lie there was a moment early on where I had to turn to the back of the book to find out what was going to happen to a particular character - otherwise I don't think I'd have been able to carry on. 

I expected to cry when reading this book - which I did on several occasions. I also felt an incredible amount of tension in certain sections and just had to keep turning the pages to find out what was going to happen. I didn't expect to laugh but I did in a couple of places - mainly because of Peaches self-depracating humour.

The story captures a feeling of claustrophobia and fear. The quickly switching point of views mean that you need to concentrate on what's happening because as the reader you get more of a whole picture of what's happening - you realise what happened with the phone on page 89 which might be something that the characters never do.

I didn't think this would be a book that I would want to read again. I know I won't want to read it for a while. But I think it is a book that I will read again because knowing how it ends will add a new depth to the re-read and I found it's themes of listening to the survivors, remembering the victims and not letting fear stop you living powerful and inspiring. 

(I received a free copy of this book to review).

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