ARC Review: Everything I Thought I Knew by Shannon Takaoka

Massive thanks to Candlewick Press for sending me a lovely review copy of this book!

Everything I Thought I Knew by Shannon Takaoka

Seventeen-year-old Chloe had a plan: work hard, get good grades, and attend a top-tier college. But after she collapses during cross-country practice and is told that she needs a new heart, all her careful preparations are laid to waste. Eight months after her transplant, everything is different. Stuck in summer school with the underachievers, all she wants to do now is grab her surfboard and hit the waves—which is strange, because she wasn’t interested in surfing before her transplant. (It doesn’t hurt that her instructor, Kai, is seriously good-looking.) And that’s not all that’s strange. There’s also the vivid recurring nightmare about crashing a motorcycle in a tunnel and memories of people and places she doesn’t recognize. Is there something wrong with her head now, too, or is there another explanation for what she’s experiencing? As she searches for answers, and as her attraction to Kai intensifies, what she learns will lead her to question everything she thought she knew—about life, death, love, identity, and the true nature of reality.

Wow.

Everything I Thought I Knew by Shannon Takaoka is potentially the best YA contemporary novel I have ever read, and is definitely one of the most spectacular books I’ve had the privilege of experiencing in the year of 2020. Words fail to properly express just how deep, thought-provoking, and beautiful this story really is.

It follows our main character Chloe, as her life takes an unexpected turn after she collapses during cross country practice and is informed that she needs a new heart. In the aftermath of her heart transplant, Chloe finds herself seeing the world from a new perspective, leading her to question everything that she once thought she knew. As she searches for answers, Chloe experiences love, loss, sadness, joy, and everything in between, and she begins to wonder what life and reality really are.

The depth of this book, in terms of examining the mysteries of reality and life itself, really surprised me (in a good way, of course). The themes of grief, guilt, loss, and acceptance were extremely powerful, and though I finished this book quite a while ago, my heart is still aching from the emotional impact it has had on me. The kinds of questioning and raw feeling Takaoka describes are so astonishing. They will break your heart, especially if you are someone who has ever struggled to reclaim your identity after suffering through a horrible loss.

A young adult novel about death and loss and moving on doesn’t sound very original at first, but trust me, Everything I Thought I Knew is such a unique approach to this common YA trope. This book explores so many thoughts and ideas that, for all we know, could be completely false… and that’s what makes it such a moving story. The characters, their feelings, and their relationships with one another were just so vivid, and because of that, this book stands out amongst so many others within the YA genre.

This is a story about discovering who you really are, with all of the pain and confusion that goes along with that. It’s a story about friendship, and heartbreak, and being young and in love, and believing that you know everything, and that the world is yours to conquer, only to discover that it’s all so much more complicated than that. In the end, it’s a book about hope as well. There are sweet moments, hilarious moments, heart wrenching moments, and touching moments. There are moments of loneliness and moments of laughter and moments of peace. And each and every one of them is absolutely beautiful.

Everything I Thought I Knew was one of those stories that, as you get closer the end, you hesitate to read more because you really don’t want the book to be over. I absolutely loved getting lost in Takaoka’s stunning prose, and I truly can’t believe that this is her debut novel.

Full of beauty, pain, sorrow, faith, love, and so much more, Everything I Thought I Knew is a novel that you will not want to miss. I loved every second of it, and I can’t wait for Chloe’s story to reach more readers.

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8 thoughts on “ARC Review: Everything I Thought I Knew by Shannon Takaoka

  1. Eleanor J. says:

    Oh wow this book sounds like it has a lot of potential, especially character wise. This is high praise, I’m going to add it to my TBR! Sounds like it tackles relevant and large themes very well too. *dun dun dun* That title is just chilling and seems like it fits the book well, based on your review! Wonderful post, Octavia!!

    Liked by 1 person

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