So, here’s the thing. Every Other Weekend by Abigail Johnson. Another YA romance layered with difficult real life circumstances. But this one is done well!
Every Other Weekend tells the story of two teens, leading incredibly different lives who crash into one another at a shabby apartment complex where neither wants to be.
Adam’s life was good. He was a good student, has friends, got along with family. Then his oldest brother died in an unfortunate accident and everything is shattered. Adam’s mom refuses to accept the truth, he can’t stop fighting with his other brother, and his dad leaves. And it’s this, his dad’s leaving, that is the last straw. It’s bad enough he doesn’t have his brother and now he doesn’t have his dad either?
Understandably, he becomes moody and resentful.
That resentment is taken to new heights when his parents decide he and his brother are going to spend every other weekend at his dad’s new apartment. The complex is old and grimy, not exactly a fun time. But it’s in this environmental hazard that Adam meets Jolene.
Jolene’s parents have been split up for a while so she’s more used to the every other weekend routine than Adam. But at least Adam’s dad is actually there; Jolene hasn’t seen her dad in months. When she’s at the small, crumbly apartment she’s stuck with her dad’s girlfriend. Who, to add insult to injury, used to be a sort of baby sitter and friend to Jolene.
Jolene has allowed this situation to harden her considerably.
She’s prickly and cynical and has no problem telling Adam that is family is doomed. The only things that seem to soften her or bring her happiness are movies. Watching them, analyzing them, planning her future as a director.
The two make an unlikely pair but eventually they do create a friendship. And that friendship slowly grows until they stop dreading the weekends and eventually come to look forward to them, even if it’s just a little bit.
There’s also a creepy older dude neighbor, Adam’s dead brother’s best friend, some Philly cheesesteaks, an alcoholic mother, an unexpected girlfriend, and sneaking out of school.
It’s a wild ride, but an enjoyable one.
I think one of the reasons it was so enjoyable, was Johnson’s balance of real life circumstances and their relationship. Often, it feels like YA authors really dig in on hard times to prove a point and it overshadows whatever the story was supposed to be.
I get it. The YA scene has historically had a bad wrap for being fluffy and lacking substance. There’s been a movement to make things more *ReAl~ and to show the world that teens are dealing with hard things too. This is great in many ways; helping teens know they’re not alone and that they can get through things.
But I also think it’s set a bit of a prescient that teens can’t have romance, or even friendship sometimes, unless something terrible happens to them. OR until they take down the patriarchy and crumble the whole system.
Which is why I liked Johnson’s balance. These circumstances felt super realistic for a teen to be handling, but it wasn’t so over the top tragic or difficult that I lost Adam and Jolene as people. It helped that I thought their friendship was very sweet and it was a joy to watch them both grow.
Although I think Jolene still has some work to do. That girl is way too cynical.
Despite that, the story was good; I was rooting for the characters, and it was well written. So if you need something to keep you company during these upcoming chilly months, I recommend Every Other Weekend!
PS I’ve been tearing through books as a coping mechanism (including 4 Harry Potter books in two weeks) so I’ve got lots to share! Y’all be looking out for more sassy hot takes coming soon.