Genre: UKYA Contemporary
Publisher: Hot Key Books
When sixteen-year-old Toria Bland arrives at her new school she needs to work out who her friends are, all in a crazy whirl of worry, exam pressure and anxiety over fitting in. Things start looking up when Toria meets the funny and foul-mouthed Polly, who’s the coolest girl Toria has ever seen. Polly and the rest of the ‘alternative’ kids take Toria under their wing. And that’s when she meets the irresistible Nico Mancini, lead singer of a local band – and it’s instalove at first sight! Toria likes Nico, Nico likes Toria . . . but then there’s Polly. Love and friendship have a funny way of going round in circles.
Twice in the past year I have met the brilliant Juno Dawson and thought she was wonderfully eloquent and that I really needed to get on and read one of her books! Well now I can finally say that I have and it definitely did not disappoint. All of the Above is a wonderful coming of age story about a young girl who moves to a small town on the south east coast of the UK and what happens throughout her first year of sixth form.
One of the things that struck me most about this book was how nostalgic it made me feel. I moved to a different school for sixth form as well and arrived knowing virtually nobody, so everything Toria was feeling and thinking and experiencing I could remember feeling at that time in my life. I wasn’t completely sure about her at first though as she seemed like a bit of a self-insert character, but as the book progressed she came into her own and I thought she was wonderful. For a relatively short book, I thought all the characters were very dimensional and realistic. Polly, one of the first people Toria meets at her new school, is wild and stubborn and strong-willed. For a while I thought she might fall into the trope of being a manix pixie dream girl at one point but fear not, Polly is a complex character who I came to adore.
The romance in this book is one of the main focuses and there is sort of a love triangle however it’s one of the best I’ve ever read and thought it was exceptionally well done. My favourite thing about Nico and Toria’s relationship was that the book was pretty self-aware of how quickly they fell for each other. Toria and Polly’s relationship was beautifully done, but I will admit that I loved the friendships in this book almost more than the romance. They fought and kept secrets but ultimately loved each other fiercely and it was so refreshing to read about.
One of the other things I really appreciated about this book was that there were so many LGBTQ+ characters and characters that are POC, and that these aspects of the characters were acknowledged and told without it being the focus of their entire story. Sometimes I find in books it feels like authors put in diverse characters just so they can tick it off a checklist, but that was not the case here; all the characters were realistic and dimensional and just happened to be diverse as well.
Overall, I highly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who feels like they are growing a bit tired of YA Contemporary because this was a huge breath of fresh air for me. I cannot wait to see what Juno comes out with in the future and to read some more of her books!
Have you read All of the Above? Let me know what you thought, and if you haven’t, whether you are going to!