[Review] Everything All at Once by Katrina Leno

24 dares. 3 weeks. Take the leap.

Lottie Reaves is not a risk taker. She plays it safe and avoids all the ways she might get hurt. But when her beloved aunt Helen dies of cancer, Lottie’s fears about life and death start spiraling out of control.

Aunt Helen wasn’t a typical aunt. She was the author of the bestselling Alvin Hatter series, about siblings who discover the elixir of immortality. Her writing inspired a generation of readers. She knew how magical writing could be, and that words have the power to make you see things differently.

In her will, Aunt Helen leaves one writing project just for Lottie. It’s a series of letters, each containing mysterious instructions that are supposed to get Lottie to take a leap and — for once in her life — really live. But when the letters reveal an extraordinary secret about the inspiration for the Alvin Hatter series, Lottie finds herself faced with an impossible choice — one that will force her to confront her greatest fears once and for all.

Genre(s): YA, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Published by HarperTeen on July 25, 2017
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➤ Representation (click to show)

biracial Peruvian-American MC with anxiety [Lottie], Peruvian immigrant secondary character [Lottie’s mom], biracial Peruvian-American secondary character [Lottie’s brother Abe], gay best friend [Em], F/F established relationship

➤ Content warnings (click to show)

precanon loss of loved one (aunt), grief, cancer, cissexism, self-harm

Aunt Helen was a fan of the many intricacies of time — its inconsistencies, its betrayals (how a perfect day could slip by in the blink of an eye and a terrible one could last forever — like the day she died, stretching out to reach infinity). And she was a fan of the ocean, and of being still, and of getting swept up in a normal afternoon. And she was a fan of changing her mind. […] Jumping off cliffs one minute and slowing down the next. I think that was exactly what she was trying to show me. All the options of a day.

This book has been on my TBR for a while since I’ve really enjoyed every Katrina Leno novel I’ve read so far — and Everything All at Once did not disappoint.

Like Aunt Helen’s letters, the overall narrative is gentle and comforting, but not bland. There’s a good balance between all the different components — plot, characters, etc. — where sometimes one is more prominent than the others but ultimately they’re all given approximately equal attention. The ocean imagery, Lottie’s support system, the books-within-a-book trope were all delightful. All the major characters are lovely people. Sadness and grief are acknowledged and respected and still not allowed to derail everything: the ownvoices mental health rep is a major element that affects most parts of the narrative (just as it affects most aspects of one’s life) without overshadowing everything else.

If you’ll pardon the cliché, this is one of those novels that is more than the sum of its parts. Despite the potential for tired tropes and cheesy epiphanies, and the fact that I can’t say that I totally bought into the magical realism twist, or the not-entirely-necessary romance, it hit home in a way that truthfully not many contemporary books can do for me. 

4 stars

Conversion: 10.7 / 15 = 4 stars

Rating Details

Prose: 5 / 10
Characters & Relationships: 7 / 10
Emotional Impact: 8 / 10
Development/Flow: 7 / 10
Setting: 9 / 10

Diversity & Social Themes: 3 / 5
Originality/Trope Execution:
4 / 5


2 thoughts on “[Review] Everything All at Once by Katrina Leno

  1. Thanks for the informative, well-written blog, Isabel. Everything All at Once sounds like a great read. I’ll have to check it out because I totally agree with the philosophy that grief must be acknowledged but not allowed to derail our lives.


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