Book Review: Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

Title: Things I Should Have Known

Author: Claire LaZebnik

Genre: YA Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 320

Rating: B+

Recommended?: Yes

Things I Should Have Known is an enjoyable and touching young adult novel about a high schooler who tries to find a boyfriend for her autistic twenty-year-old sister. I usually avoid books that can be categorized as ‘romance’ because I don’t relate to them and frankly, they bore me. This was somewhat of a romance, but the romantic elements didn’t dominate. It’s more about the sisterly relationship between the two main female characters.

The novel’s heroine, Chloe, is attractive, sociable, and not a particularly good student. Her sister Ivy goes to a special school and is shy, introverted, and set in her routines. Chloe realizes how lonely Ivy is and decides to set her up with Ivy’s classmate Ethan, a talkative movie nut. Then she realizes that Ethan’s younger brother is David, a boy she really dislikes who goes to her high school.

David is chilly and patronizing but he and Chloe have to spend some time with each other as they supervise Ethan and Ivy on their dates. Gee, where do you think this is going? The enemies-to-lovers trope works fairly well here even though David’s behavior towards Chloe sometimes borders on demeaning and toxic. She gives him as good as she gets but even though they fall for each other I can’t picture the relationship being long-term.

Some of the ableist behavior also seemed on the nose, like from the guy Chloe is dating at the beginning (James) and the women at the bowling alley. It seemed like it might have worked better if some of it were more inference. One of my favorite things about this book how you could dislike but see the good in different characters, like Ivy and Chloe’s stepdad Ron.

All the characters’ perspectives made sense, even the ones you disagreed with. Nothing was simple black and white and the relationships were multi-layered and thoroughly believable. It was also nice to see a sibling relationship with a neurotypical person and a person on the autism spectrum that was conflicted and troubled in ways while still being very positive.

Chloe didn’t consider Ivy a problem or a burden, even though she sometimes felt like she had to parent her. She loved her and wanted to do whatever she could to make her happy. Ethan was also awesome. He was such a nice kid and I loved how he had such strong feelings about everything movie related.

David would have done anything for him as well and I was surprised with how things finally ended up. It was bittersweet and didn’t offer any easy fixes for the issues the main characters were having. I would recommend this book to people to like romance as well as people who don’t care for it. It’s a tender and cute story about a girl who wants to make her sister’s life better and ends up growing in ways she hadn’t expected.

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