It Wasn’t Always Like This By Joy Preble

I received this galley in consideration for an honest review.

It Wasn’t Always Like This By Joy PrebleIt Wasn't Always Like This by Joy Preble
Published by SoHo Press on May 17, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction

In 1916, Emma O’Neill is frozen in time. After sampling an experimental polio vaccine brewed on a remote island off St. Augustine, Florida, she and her family stop aging—as do the Ryans, her family’s business partners. In a way, this suits Emma fine because she’s in love with Charlie Ryan. Being seventeen forever with him is a dream. But soon a group of religious fanatics, the Church of Light, takes note. Drinking the elixir has made the O’Neills and Ryans impervious to aging, but not to murder—Emma and Charlie are the only ones who escape with their lives.

On the run, Emma is tragically separated from Charlie. For the next hundred years, she plays a cat-and-mouse game with the founding members of the Church of Light and their descendants. Over the years, a series of murders—whose victims all bear more than a passing resemblance to her—indicate that her enemies are closing in. Yet as the danger grows, so does Emma’s hope for finding the boy she’s certain is still out there .

To be immortal would undoubtedly be a curse….unless you had someone with whom you could spend eternity.  Emma has the immortality, but not the boy she loves.  On the run from a group of religious radicals, Emma is trying to escape the people who hunt her, while trying to solve the mystery of the dead girls, whose deaths seem to follow her.  The comparison to Veronica Mars is apt, except Emma’s adult cynicism in a teen girl’s body is well earned by being alive for over a hundred years.  I really like Emma, which isn’t a requirement for liking a book, but I felt like I got to know her, and that made this story even more enjoyable.  The non-linear timeline goes back and forth between the early days of their immortality and present day.  It helped me sink into the story little by little and before I knew it, I was totally invested.  Emma’s heartbreak over Charlie and their subsequent searches for each other was so romantic and sad.  Although they were both still looking for each other, they continued to live their lives as the years went on. There was always that dark cloud, though, and the knowledge that they were missing the one person in their life who would understand them.

The murder mystery aspect was blended well with Emma’s personal struggles until they entwined in an excellent story climax.  Information about the church that hunted them was carefully placed in both timelines, which made trying to solve it really fun.  The whole gritty PI feel really worked with the story, and it was an interesting contrast to past-Emma, because you could really see how her many years on earth had changed her, although her looks hadn’t changed at all.  It Wasn’t Always Like This was the perfect blend of science fiction, mystery, humor, and bittersweet romance.  I loved reading Emma’s story and if there was another book in this world (please?), I would definitely read it!


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About Joy Preble

Joy Preble is a Texas girl who was born and raised in Chicago and a former high school teacher who now writes full time, which means she gets paid for making up stuff. She earned an English degree from Northwestern University and speaks and teaches widely on writing and literacy at libraries and schools, as well as SCBWI, NCTE, AWP, and other conferences. Joy is the author of THE SWEET DEAD LIFE and its sequel, THE A WORD (May 2014), both from Soho Press. Kirkus hailed THE SWEET DEAD LIFE with “Hallelujah! A paranormal tale of angels…that breaks the mold.” She is also the author of the DREAMING ANASTASIA series (Sourcebooks) that combines paranormal romance with Russian folklore. DREAMING ANASTASIA was nominated for a Cybil Award in the Teen Sci-Fi/Fantasy Category in 2009. It was named an ABC Best Book for Children, Teen Category in 2009, and was featured in Justine Magazine.


7 responses to “It Wasn’t Always Like This By Joy Preble

  1. Kaitlyn A.

    Yes and no. I would have the chance to see and do everything, but I’m sure at some point in my life I would love to rest and be at peace.

  2. Is it weird that I would want to live forever? Honestly, death is my biggest fear in the world, so yeah, I would like to live forever, I think. Though after a few millennia, perhaps I’d be singing a different tune? 😉 Thanks so much for the chance to win, I have been so intrigued by this book! And fabulous review, too!

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