Shannon Takaoka, Everything I Thought I Knew, Candlewick Press, October 2020, 320 pp., RRP $18.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781406395365
Shannon Takaoka’s debut novel, Everything I Thought I Knew, begins like any other contemporary YA novel but quickly takes an unexpected turn that brings up a multitude of questions about life and reality itself.
Seventeen-year-old Chloe had big plans for the future: she would excel in her studies, attend a top college and become a scientist. But all this unravels the moment she collapses during her cross-country practise. Chloe is told she will need a new heart. But getting a heart is not that easy. There is a list and the fact that another person with a healthy heart and the same blood type must die. It is a painful waiting game. Fortunately for Chloe, being young and without other health issues places her at the top of the transplant list.
Eight months after her surgery and with a stranger’s heart replacing her own, she could pass as any other ordinary teenager (if you don’t count the scar running down the middle of her chest or the fistful of pills she will have to take every day for the rest of her life). Instead of following her friends off to college, she is now stuck in summer school with misfits and underachievers.
Something else has changed. She is taking risks and making unusual friend choices. Chole begins having strange dreams, at least she thinks they’re dreams, but they seem too real, almost like memories. Thing is, she has never met these people or visited the places that suddenly seem so familiar. Another thing to add to the list of weirdness is her newfound love for surfing, which may not be all that bad considering how attractive her instructor, Kai, is. As Chloe searches for answers, she is faced with more and more questions.
Everything I Thought I Knew is a thoughtful exploration of life, identity, love and reality. It is an intriguing mystery and thoroughly enjoyable read as readers attempt to bring together pieces of the puzzle. With a sweet yet heartbreaking romance thrown in the mix, this compelling read is recommended for older teenagers due to some strong language.
Reviewed by India Boon