Pages: 240 Copyright: 2013
The blurb: “Love is a journey with endless possibilities.
Skye wants to meet the boy who will change her life forever. Seth feels their instant connection the second he sees her. When Seth starts talking to Skye at the last beach party of the summer, it’s obvious to both of them that this is something real. But when Seth leaves for college before they exchange contact info, Skye wonders if he felt the same way she did—and if she will ever see him again. Even if they find their way back to each other, can they make a long-distance relationship work despite trust issues, ex drama, and some serious background differences?”
Rachel, if you’re here, thank you so much for letting me borrow this, and I hope you’ll find it in your heart to forgive me for the skeptical review ahead.
Here comes the skepticism: hmmmmmm.
I am a big romantic, and usually very generous when it comes to stretching of reality in love stories (I will defend Marius and Cosette’s insta-love to my deathbed.) But right off the bat, this one was a little shaky for me. Seth falls in love at first sight with Skye in a big way, and she goes along with it because she was already on the lookout for a summer love, which I get, but it was still all pretty speedy.
Then there’s the fact that this was truly a pure romance book, in that there was really nothing else to the plot other than the progression of Skye and Seth’s relationship. Technically there was friend drama for Skye and college drama for Seth, but those storylines took a big backseat and were more like icing. That might have been okay, except for that their love story was so… simple. There wasn’t any kind of a twist, you know? They were just two regular American kids who started talking, liked each other, and went on cute dates. Neither of them was a werewolf, or a pop star, or a foreign exchange student. They didn’t meet at an airport or as swimmers on rival swim teams. Normally when somebody asks you “what’s that book about?”, you can give them a one-sentence premise that explains what the twist is, what’s interesting about this particular story. I guess for All I Need, it would be that they meet on vacation and then are separated without contact information, but (spoiler alert) that only lasts a few chapters. Then they’re still doing long-distance, but it doesn’t even really quite go there, because they’re close enough to see each other nearly every week.
But I’ve read a few other people’s reviews, and one of the most common comments is also the one that is loudest in my own mind: the message tied up with the title is really very troubling. Skye literally says at one point that Seth’s love is “all I need.” Seth acts out a similar sentiment by frequently feeling guilty for choosing college-related opportunities that could be vital to his future over free time to be with Skye, and even begins to actively eschew those opportunities in favor of Skye. When Skye’s parents express concern for Skye over the same issue, they’re depicted as grumpy cynics who just don’t understand about true love. Near the climax of the story, Skye actually makes a MASSIVE life decision against what really interests her, so that she can be near Seth instead. And this is never depicted as a problem.
No!! No, no, no! Young(-er than me) girls, if you are reading this review, please do not be Skye!
Some people really do meet the loves of their lives when they’re teenagers, but even if you’re in that minority, it’s only true love if it stretches and flexes and waits to allow you to live your life the way you would if you were flying solo. When you’re a married adult, you make compromises in your choices to consider your spouse, but when you’re a 17-year-old who met a cute guy on the beach, you live your own dang life.
Romantic love is not All You Need. Romantic love will not fix all your problems, and romantic love does not negate the need for fulfilling creative expression, a satisfying career, close friendships. There is even a large community of people who aren’t interested in romantic love in their lives at all, ever. This kind of harmful love-aholic message is exactly what the romantic genre is criticized and reviled for. Most of the time those allegations are uninformed and incorrect. Here, though, I was very hard-put to defend.
Things that went right: Skye and Seth were both well-formed and distinct from each other. Their voices were different enough that I didn’t get lost in the alternating-voices format. Their friends, though secondary characters, were also well-developed and very interesting. And Skye and Seth did seem to be pretty supportive of each other, when not discussing opportunities that would separate them.
I just couldn’t help but feel that this book was doing exactly the things that YA needs to be steering away from. I really enjoyed Susane’s book When it Happens, and I don’t remember being troubled by the themes in that one. I think she may have just gotten a little carried away here with the cute factor and stumbled into a bad territory.