You Only Live Once, David Bravo. Mark Oshiro. 2022. 381 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: "What if we just don't go to school?"
What I expected: I did not do my due diligence before checking this one out of the library. That is on me. What I expected was either a) a fun, whimsical wish-gone-wrong light-hearted romp where life goes from messy to messier to messiest before the main character learns a lesson of contentment and shows gratitude b) a subtle creepy, spooky Twilight-Zone trapped-in-the-wrong-time-line vibe c) an offbeat, quirky ultimately absurd (think Tom Angleberger) romp that plays with the nerdy glory of alternate time lines, parallel universes, etc. I didn't get either of those three. Again, I probably should have done a little more research on my end to find out exactly what the book is all about before I checked it out of the library. If I had, I would not have been left with the feeling of being given a shaken-up can of soda. I can't fault the author for not giving me the book *I* wanted.
Premise/plot: David Bravo is starting his first day of middle school. He's upset (and understandably so) that his best friend (his only friend) Antoine is not in any of his classes. They don't even have the same lunch periods. (They just overlap by fifteen minutes). Everything seems to be going wrong. He's awkward because he's nervous/anxious but also awkward because he's frozen in indecision. And not just on the first day. It seems to be an ongoing issue with him that he's so scared of making any/every/all choices that he takes really long pauses.
After a particularly bad day, he wishes for a do-over. And his wish is granted by a shape-shifting, once-alive-and-human spirit named Fea (though that was not her human name). Fea is a shape-shifter. Once Fea enters the picture, it seems David's troubles magnify. Instead of helping, she seems to be making things worse. Her good intentions of making things better or making things right is almost irrelevant. She definitely is the interfering sort. She's convinced that David Bravo's life is in horrible-no-good-very-bad shape because he's not being honest about *who* he is. If he would only admit that he likes-likes Antoine as more than just a friend, then his life would get back on track. And essentially "she would get her wings." (Not really, but her infinity emblem would go from red to green. So essentially thematically same-same.) But David is reluctant and needs pushing. He tries any/every solution but her suggestion. But Fea and David's misadventures continue. She even flashes to her own past life as a human to show him her mistakes in not coming out and being honest with her best friend.
Also complicating this story line--and perhaps the one straw too much????--is the theme that David Bravo is adopted. Not that adoption stories are too much for stories. (Far from it.) But in this instance, once the main story *is* resolved (yes, he tells Antoine that he likes likes him) we still have this other story that is resolved in an over-the-top bizarre way. The ending is just all kinds of wrong. (Again, my opinion).
My thoughts: This isn't the story I wanted it to be exactly. Not the author's fault for not meeting my expectations.
I will say that it had some It's a Wonderful Life vibes. Perhaps some readers will really appreciate that. Again, David struggles with depression, self-worth; sometimes thinks it would be better if he'd never been adopted out. He questions where he belongs--if he belongs.
I do think that too many things were being juggled in the air--plot wise. There was David needing to come out to his best friend; there was David being confused about being adopted; there was Fea being haunted by her past life; there was also a weird sub-plot about how neither boys really wanted to run track??? The ending is where this book totally and completely lost me.
The search for his birth mother led him to a twin brother (also adopted out) and the realization that his birth parents--both of them--died in a car accident on their way to the hospital. The twins survived but were separated. The fact that his twin-brother was adopted into the family of Fea's girlhood CRUSH and that Fea (the spirit) dances with the grandmother (her former crush)...it just seems like this ending doesn't know when to stop pushing. I wasn't feeling great about the tacked on twin brother and the tragic reveal about the parents. But everything all together at the end of this one--was just way too much.
© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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