Always the Almost
by Edward Underhill
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Pub Date 14 Feb 2023 | Archive Date 28 Feb 2023
St. Martin's Press, Wednesday Books
A trans pianist makes a New Year's resolution on a frozen Wisconsin night to win regionals and win back his ex, but a new boy complicates things in Edward Underhill's heartfelt debut YA rom-dram, Always the Almost.
Sixteen-year-old trans boy Miles Jacobson has two New Year’s resolutions: 1) win back his ex-boyfriend (and star of the football team) Shane McIntyre, and 2) finally beat his slimy arch-nemesis at the Midwest’s biggest classical piano competition. But that’s not going to be so easy. For one thing, Shane broke up with Miles two weeks after Miles came out as trans, and now Shane’s stubbornly ignoring him, even when they literally bump into each other. Plus, Miles’ new, slightly terrifying piano teacher keeps telling him that he’s playing like he “doesn’t know who he is”—whatever that means.
Then Miles meets the new boy in town, Eric Mendez, a proudly queer cartoonist from Seattle who asks his pronouns, cares about art as much as he does—and makes his stomach flutter. Not what he needs to be focusing on right now. But after Eric and Miles pretend to date so they can score an invite to a couples-only Valentine’s party, the ruse turns real with a kiss, which is also definitely not in the plan. If only Miles could figure out why Eric likes him so much. After all, it's not like he’s cool or confident or comfortable in his own skin. He’s not even good enough at piano to get his fellow competitors to respect him, especially now, as Miles. Nothing’s ever been as easy for him as for other people—other boys. He’s only ever been almost enough.
So why, when he’s with Eric, does it feel like the only person he’s ever really not been enough for...is himself?
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 253 members
This was such a sweet and heartfelt book! It does have it's darker moments, so be sure to check out the content warnings if you think you might need them, but wow! The way the book describes music made me think about it in a whole new way, and Miles is a character you'll fall for immediately! It's both messy and joyful in the best ways, and I binged this book in one sitting! Check it out if you're looking for a YA romance!
I loved everything about this book. Fantastic characters, great story, really engaging read. So much trans, queer joy!!
This was SUCH a powerful and poignant book! Definitely a story for the time! This was a story of gender, sexuality, identity, and relationships. Told from the POV of a trans high schooler, this is truly a story everyone should read. This is an emotionally honest narrative about figuring out who you are and about living your true life.
I loved that we were shown not only Miles’ everyday life, but also his life through piano, and how discovering and realizing his true identity impacted his piano playing.
This was such an eye opening story and I feel incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to read it.
I was given an ARC by. NetGalley and Wednesday Books. All opinions are my own.
when i found “always the almost” sitting on my netgalley shelf i’m pretty sure i squealed with joy. this book encapsulates so much of my identity whilst remaining hopeful, kind and at its core utterly joyful.
but the book is so so much more than its premise suggests, it’s a story of identity and relationships and letting go of something that seems so deep rooted into you. learning to grow whilst coming of age and learning to love alongside that. it is a story of tackling what it means to be trans and, in this case also being a pianist who is struggling to find where those two things interlink.
our main character was one i could not help but love, (even as he made what some may call foolish decisions and life choices, we’ve all been there). he was such a transformative character from the start to end, where his journey followed not just his passions but the fragile state of his own identity as it solidified into something known. and at just 16, it was obvious there’s gonna be some teen angst thrown in and boy oh boy was there!
i also loved our group of side characters! particularly the love interest (whomst i loved that little bit extra for reasons you will have to read about <3). and the love interests sister, who was an angel in every possible way.
there is so much about this book i could say and so much i don’t know how to articulate (especially without spoilers). edward underhill has created a book that will be both cherished and adored by the trans youth of our future. i hope they find a home between the words and within the characters that look just that little bit more like them.
I really enjoyed this story and found the characters adorable and engaging. I loved the relationship between Miles and Eric, even with it's bumps and issues, because this is how teenagers are - they have lots of big emotions, they want lots of different, and sometimes conflicting things - and it was nice to see that portrayed in a genuine way in this novel. More than the relationships, I was intrigued by the piano competition - the mental preparation, the emotional connection with the music, and the methods used by Stefania to guide Miles as he learned more about his true self.
Thanks, NetGalley, for the ARC.
Uplifting, joyful, victorious. The Sky Blues meets Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda meets A Little Bit Country meets Heartbreak Boys but make it trans. So, if you loved the books mentioned above, you should definitely check out Always the Almost!
Sometimes I just know I will love a story. From the moment I read the blurb, my heart jumped up with happiness. Then I saw the cover by Myriam Strasbourg (peachesobviously), and I knew I needed this book. And when I started reading, I immediately fell head over heels. With the vibrant writing. With the realistic characters and their flaws. With the easiness, Edward tells this story. With Miles’ devotion to the piano and classical music (even though I’m not a massive fan of classical music). When Miles played that piano, I felt his struggles and his joy for being himself, a trans, queer teen. And I was in awe.
Always the Almost is about finding yourself and being true to yourself. It’s like being with the ones you love the most. It’s a story that hugged me completely, like a blanket full of warmth. I read the book with a constant smile on my face and this warm fuzzy feeling in my chest. Miles was an MC to root for, and Eric, cinnamon roll Eric was so sweet and lovable. I even liked Shane. And, of course, Stefania! Hard on the outside, so soft on the inside.
Thanks, Edward, for sharing Miles’ story with the world. I’m impatiently waiting for what you write next!
This book was phenomenal! I devoured it over the course of a few days. I loved how true to life the story felt. Each character was incredibly developed and interesting. (Legit would read an ENTIRE book about Rachel...I hope one day there is one). LOVE LOVE LOVED this book. <333
I was given this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC.
This was honestly one of my favorite reads of this year. The way the author writes the characters just made me relate to them so much. I cannot wait until I can buy my own copy of this gem. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC!
This is one of the most beautiful books I've read in a long time. It absolutely resonates with queer joy. I fell in love with Miles and his connection to music almost immediately (it seriously had me crying three chapters in) and got very, very invested in a fictional piano competition as a result. Also, Stefania is one of my favorite mentor characters of all time.
This book was so healing to read. It's so full of joy and angst, highs and lows, and because of that, I couldn't imagine a better story for teens today. Miles is messy and real and we root for him throughout the entire book. Eric was also a delightful breath of fresh air, accepting Miles for who he is. I was close to tears a few times while reading this book and I'm so excited for everyone to read it. Valentine's Day is the perfect release date!
ALWAYS THE ALMOST is a perfect contemporary, and I can't recommend it more. It reads as a love letter to music and trans joy, but still allows the characters to be realistically and understandably messy. The voice is strong, the pacing is precise, and I loved every page. Sure to be a standout, lasting, and live-saving piece of queer literature for years to come.
This book was emotional, swoon-worthy, and hilarious. The writing made me feel so entranced in the story that it didn't even feel like I was reading. This book reminded me so much of why it's so critical to show yourself love before you show it to anyone else, and I think this message should be spread to everyone, especially teens! Please pick up this book, you won't regret it.
A sweeping and magical debut! This sweet story hits all the right notes (sorry, had to!) with a swoon worthy love interest and a well-developed cast of characters that will stay in your mind long after you finish reading. Can't recommend this enough!
I absolutely loved this one. In the author’s note, they talk about how important it is to have stories of trans joy, that the point here was to show that there are spaces for trans folks and that the journey of our main character was really to just learn to accept himself. There were instances of transphobia, but we got to see Miles learn how to love himself in a way that the opinions of others became a background thing instead of his main focus. So much piano, so many joyful moments, I truly loved it and recommend this one to all of my queer pals, and even non queer pals who want to read some queer joy with a happily ever after.
Absolutely emotional but I was smiling so much. For this to be a debut, I am so excited to continue to read more from Edward Underhill. It dove into so many topics such as gender and identity and it was handled beautifully. I truly enjoyed reading this and I might have to reread soon.
Always the Almost was hands down one of the best reads of the year. You could feel the anxiety that Miles was feeling throughout the entire story. If you're queer or questioning your gender this is a must read! I loved watching as Miles grew into his own identity, this is one hell of a beautiful and realistic coming of age story that I wish everyone could read.
This was just incredible! I am such a sucker for a coming of age/self discovery story and the whole tone of this just wrapped everything together with a beautiful bow. I absolutely recommend this to someone looking for a wholesome queer story that will uplift them and leave them with a smile on their face.
I think everyone will be able to see a bit of themselves in Miles and the trials and triumphs he finds himself in throughout the story. Also, it has fake dating - who doesn't love a bit of fake dating?
this book was truly a standout of a YA debut. SO full of queer joy, amazing dynamics, well-rounded and real MCs, a wonderful supporting cast of secondary characters, and messy teenage experiences. this was a love letter to queer small-town kids, music, finding yourself, and the power to choose who you are, and it was AMAZING. casey mcquinston adjacent, incredibly written, and full of heart and passion that I haven't felt in a YA story in a long time. definitely in my top 5 YA books ever, if not top 3. literally just amazing. (the cover is also INCREDIBLE.) definitely cried on a plane at the end, multiple times. worth it <3
This has to be one of the best books I have read in a long time. It made me laugh and cry, I literally was laying in bed crying while reading this. As a musician myself, I connected greatly with that part of Miles, and made me love music even more. I read this book so fast and could not put it down until I finished it. I loved everything about this book and definitely will be purchasing a copy when it comes out. I highly recommend this book to everyone!
I cannot stress the importance of this book! Not only is it beautifully written and has a cast of well-developed characters and romantic plot I was glued to, it shows the realities of life as a trans teen navigating their true self in a world that's still learning to accept them. Miles's journey throughout the story involves feeling like an "almost" in many areas of his life, and meeting Eric changes everything. Also, special shout out to Stefania, an absolute icon piano instructor who proved to be so, so much more. Always the Almost shows that it's the people we keep with us during the journey who help us shine the brightest.
I carry a piece of Miles with me every day. He's the kids I read about losing their rights in school and in medical settings that we need to keep fighting for. He's someone's child, student, friend, boyfriend who deserves everything good in the world. He's more than an almost - he's magic, he's everything.
Edward Underhill is a new favorite voice in YA fiction and will forever be an auto-buy author for me.
I love that we are seeing more and more narratives with strong trans characters. Always the Almost is a beautiful trans coming of age story that had me emotionally invested from the beginning. One of the things I loved about this book is the use of piano playing as a metaphor for the main character gaining strength and finding his authentic self. I loved the piano teacher as a mentor. This is a book that will resonate with so many The romance is sweet and added to my enjoyment of the novel. I recommend this book to everyone looking for a high quality YA novel who wants to feel warm and fuzzy while reading.
Thank you to St. Martin's Press, Wednesday Books & NetGalley for allowing me to read and review this digital ARC
I LOVED this book! It is so swoony and sweet and so full of trans joy! The musical passages were beautifully written, and I gained so much more understanding of the trans experience.. Author Edward Underhill writes with a lovely generosity of spirit towards all of the characters including a well-rounded supporting cast!
This book is like a delightful warm hug! From start to finish, Underhill has crafted a cast of characters so warm, so kind, so thoughtful, so generous that I just wanted to live in the world of this book. Underhill's main character, Miles, is deeply likable and realistic, and readers will root for him every step of the way. The LI is exactly the kind of love interest you want for a hero like Miles: heart-filled, compassionate, funny, and pure joy. I will be buying this book for everyone I know!
I was excited to get my hands on this book from the moment I saw it, months ago, and it was instaintly a preorder for me. I'm so glad I did, and after reading the ARC, I can't wait to get my hands on the physical copy of it!!! Miles and Eric were both very, very real to me from the begining. Reading books like this, I always think "Oh, come on, Miles. Shane is a jerk, he can't see and love you for you, why can't you understand that?' But then if I was in Mile's shoes, I would be thinking the same thing as him, which is why he's such a real chaaracter for me. And I just love Eric, such a wonderful character! Reading them grow closer and find love in each other has my romantic heart singing.
Thank you for this book!! It really was a wonderful, happy read!
This book hit all the right notes—relatable characters, a sweet romance, and an important message that I feel like I have to keep reminding myself, just like Miles. It tugged at my heartstrings and I can't wait for more readers to get their hands on Underhill's debut!
The biggest thank you to Wednesday Books and Netgalley for sending me an e-ARC of this book to read and review. Wow. I'm completely blown away. This book felt like a warm hug and I loved it so much. There were so many meaningful moments throughout the story about being who you are and not feeling right in your own skin. Miles, the main character is a trans queer high schooler and I adored him. I thought his perspective was so important and while I cannot relate his exact struggles, I feel like a lot of readers can see themselves in his journey. I loved all the other characters in this book too. Eric and Rachel specifically were my faves and I love that Rachel was Jewish even if it was only briefly mentioned. The tone felt so mature and even though there were some heavier topics, I thought the overall nature was light. The pianist narrative was so well done and I loved watching Miles grow and flourish not only in the competition aspect, but in his life in general. I truly cannot say enough good things and this definitely should hit your TBR!
What a gem of a book! ALWAYS THE ALMOST by Edward Underhill is a fantastic read. Miles is a compelling narrator who immediately engages a reader. We meet him at such a pivotal moment, early in his transition--and at a transitional moment in his piano playing competition. I was so invested in Miles and his friends--and especially his relationship with Eric--that I couldn't put down the book. Stephania, the new piano teacher for Miles, is also a standout character and, as a teacher, it's a joy to see how she teaches Miles and how her approach is so transformative for him.
This is a great book. I'll recommend it to all my students. In addition, I'll be using it as an example of how clothes help us build the bodies and/or identities we haven't fully developed in my queer fiction writing class.
Is it weird that I wish my mom had put me in piano lessons now? Because the descriptions in this book were lit! I loved all of the representation in this book, especially in that Miles's friends and family are so supportive of his transition. And I love a character not being retraumatized by being publicly deadnamed, outed, or assaulted just for the sake of a plot. Watching Miles and Eric fall in love with each other and themselves was adorable, I just want to give them so many hugs. This is such a heartwarming LGBT love song and everyone needs to read it.
*Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest review*
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