Published by Balzer + Bray on November 7th 2017
Source: Publisher, Edelweiss
Genres: Contemporary, Diversity, Young Adult
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Despite sending him letters ever since she was thirteen, Taliah Abdallat never thought she'd ever really meet Julian Oliver. But one day, while her mother is out of the country, the famed rock star from Staring Into the Abyss shows up on her doorstep. This makes sense - kinda - because Julian Oliver is Taliah's father, even though her mother would never admit it to her.
Julian asks if Taliah if she will drop everything and go with him to his hometown of Oak Falls, Indiana, to meet his father - her grandfather - who is nearing the end of his life. Taliah, torn between betraying her mother's trust and meeting the family she has never known, goes.
With her best friend Harlow by her side, Taliah embarks on a three-day journey to find out everything about her 'father' and her family. But Julian isn't the father Taliah always hoped for, and revelations about her mother's past are seriously shaking her foundation. Through all these new experiences, Taliah will have to find new ways to be true to herself, honoring her past and her future.
The best word that I can use to describe Here We Are Now is ‘disappointing’. I absolutely loved Jasmine Warga’s debut novel, My Heart and Other Black Holes, and was highly anticipating this second novel. Sadly, it failed to hit the emotional heights of her debut novel and didn’t really live up to the good concept of the book.
Here We Are Now is about Taliah, who has been brought up by her single mother and has never known her father. She’s had her suspicions but when rock star, Julian Oliver, shows up on her doorstep one day while her mother was in Paris for work, Taliah discovers a whole new family she never knew existed. Julian invites her back to his home town in Indiana to meet her dying grandfather before he passes. And the story takes off from there. Taliah and Julian bond as father and daughter, and Taliah learns the story of her parents.
I had such a big problem with the execution of the plot. It was a great concept that would’ve allowed for a lot of character development and a great family story. I was expecting to be touched emotionally and to connect with all of the characters but I was left feeling quite underwhelmed. The story takes place over 5 short days and the plot progresses much too quickly for any emotional attachment to be made. I felt like the book needed a good 100 pages more for it to be successful. I also found some of the things that happened to be a little bit unrealistic. For example, about 30 minutes of meeting Julian, Taliah agrees to go on a 5 hour road trip with him, without telling her mother (in hindsight, this is probably not so weird considering it’s a YA novel…). On top of this, she convinces her best friend to come with her and apparently everything’s all good and well with that too. Aside from being a little bit unrealistic, I also thought that a lot of plot points lacked resolution because of how quickly the book progressed. There were tensions between Taliah’s mum, Lena, and Julian and these seemed to be largely unresolved. There were also tensions between Taliah and her best friend, but these were apparently just resolved through a quick phone call. I just needed much more from the novel.
I also wasn’t very enthused by anything that did happen. The book was mostly spent with Taliah and Julian walking around town and him recounting his past with Lena. Most of the interesting parts of the book for me, were these stories about the past, and I wished that the novel was about Julian and Lena’s romance instead of Taliah. There was also a lukewarm, budding romance between Taliah and Julian’s next door neighbour, Toby. It seemed like yet another cliche that was not only unnecessary to the plot, but also detracted from the main themes of the novel.
I was not a fan of the characterisation in Here We Are Now. None of the characters were particularly well-developed and I didn’t really connect with any of them. My favourite character was Lena and I liked how the author tried to give her some depth by including tidbits of her culture, and her life in Jordan before moving to America. I enjoyed the diversity in this book but I wished there was a little bit more focus on it, rather than some of the unnecessary things in the novel.
Overall, I didn’t think that Here We Are Now was a successful novel. It didn’t really live up to the potential of the concept but I did enjoy the diversity in it and liked reading about a few of the characters.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thanks to HarperCollins for providing a review copy of the book.