EVERYTHING I THOUGHT I KNEW, by Shannon Takaoka, Candlewick, Oct. 13, 2020, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 14 and up)
Does life stop at death? A teenage recipient of a heart transplant can’t help but ask that question in Shannon Takaoka’s Everything I thought I Knew.
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. —Synopsis provided by Candlewick
Sometimes books just resonate with you. Sometimes you know why, and sometimes you don’t. In the case of Everything I Though I Knew, I know exactly why. My brother was the recipient of a donor’s kidney and pancreas. It gave us five extra years with him, but those five years weren’t always easy.
My brother didn’t talk about his donor much. He never tried to make contact, and neither did the donor’s family. It was too hard for my brother. Too emotional, I think.
Reading Everything I Thought I knew; I couldn’t help but wonder if my brother’s feelings echoed Chloe’s on some level.
Of course, there’s much more to Shannon Takaoka’s novel than my personal connection. Chloe is a stand-out character. She’s multifaceted. And everything she if fact thinks she knows, isn’t the same on second glance. Her growth throughout the novel is compelling and the driving force throughout.
One of the strongest elements in the book is the surprise twist at the end that makes you reexamine everything through a different lens. I’d love to go back and reread it again with this new knowledge.
I read Everything I Thought I Knew in one day. It’s a great option for teens who love character studies.
*Sensitivity note: The use of drugs and alcohol, and curse words are present in this book.
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