The Evolving Truth of Ever-Stronger Will

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Pub Date 31 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 31 Oct 2023
Astra Publishing House, Astra Young Readers

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Will, an agender teen, struggles with the haunting aftermath of parental abuse as they forge a new life and love in this novel that is perfect for fans of If These Wings Could Fly and Last Night at the Telegraph Club.

Will is a 17-year-old on the cusp of freedom: freedom from providing and caring for their abusive, addicted mother, freedom from their small town with an even smaller mindset, and the freedom from having to hide who they truly are. When their drug dealer mother dies months before their 18th birthday, Will is granted their freedom earlier than expected. But their mother’s last words haunt Will: She cursed them with her dying breath, claiming her death was their fault. Soon their mother’s drug-dealing past threatens Will’s new shiny future, leaving Will scrambling to find their beloved former foster mother Raz before Child Protective Services or local drug dealers find them first. But how do you reconnect with family and embark on a new love when you’re convinced you destroy everything you touch?
Will, an agender teen, struggles with the haunting aftermath of parental abuse as they forge a new life and love in this novel that is perfect for fans of If These Wings Could Fly and Last Night at...

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ISBN 9781662620171
PRICE $19.99 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

Oh. My. Word.

This is undoubtedly one of the best books I’ve read, not just this year, but in my entire life. Brimming with heart and feeling and, well, sheer force of will, The Evolving Truth of Ever-Stronger Will is a book that grabbed me by the hands and didn’t let go until the very last page.

I have never read an entire novel set in second person pov before, but I was blown away by this author’s command of the English language, as the second person point of view not only worked perfectly for me, but also added to the story in a way that I don’t think would’ve been possible any other way. We see such an intimate, detailed, heartwrenching glimpse into Will’s life that it only makes sense we read as if we are in their shoes ourselves - which we are not, but we see more than they trust any other characters with at first, so this style of narration works beautifully to complement that, that feeling of really being immersed in a story and its main character.

The relationships were all lovely, and realistic. No one was absolutely perfect and nor were their circumstances, but that conflict and nuance made it feel like… when Will talked things over with some characters, and they both reached understanding, it felt like one of those rest stops you take on a long hike, tired and weary but glad to have a moment to take in the view. The depth and care that MacGregor writes all of their characters with is astounding, and I genuinely felt as if they were real people, that’s how realistic and complicated they all were.

The author says at the end of the book that they wrote the book they wanted as a child. I’m not a child, but I’m still a young queer person, and so… I am honestly floored right now. Many aspects of Will’s life were also truths and realities that I needed a story about when I was younger, and I am so indescribably glad that I have them now, put into words better than I could but in a way that will resonate with I think all who read this. But the aspects of Will’s life that I didn’t relate to resonated too - and I feel like that’s important to mention in this review. I connected with Will, wholly and truly, in a way that I have with few other characters, and not only is that incredible skill on the author’s part, but it is also so so important, for I’m glad that this story will reach those who need it, but I’m also glad that it will reach those who don’t need it in quite the same way, but who need it to learn and see how to be a better ally, or more empathetic, or just to have a good cry. That is always important too, and MacGregor has written this book in such a way that it will resonate with both groups.

Know its subject matter first, but… pick up this book if you relate, and pick it up if you don’t. You’ll feel and learn and relate, and experience practically all human emotions in the span of a few hours. This is a beautifully written book, with characters who latch onto your heart and don’t let go. Don’t miss it.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC, all opinions are my own.

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This book seems to fill a very important gap in representation for young people who have experienced abuse or been in the foster care system, particularly LGBTQIA2S young people who may not have seen stories about people like themselves beyond stories about coming out (and because we know LGBTQIA2S and neurodivergent young people are more likely to experience abuse or neglect). This book has an agender character, a nonbinary character, and several queer characters. There's some representation for neurodivergence, too. The second person narration is unusual but in this book I think it really works. The characters are well developed, and the writing is distinctive (Will's voice is very well developed and there's a nice touch of humor as needed.) Other reviews have already commented that this book should come with some content warnings. I think for young people who know what to expect when they pick up the book, if they have experienced these things and feel alone or need a story that shows that there is life beyond their traumatic experiences this could be really wonderful. It was very hard for me to put it down (I finished the book in less than 24 hours despite a busy work schedule.) I can't wait to read more of MacGregor's books, including some of their earlier ones under different pen names. While my students are too young for this book, I will definitely share it with colleagues and friends who work with older students.

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Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for this review!

First of all, I have to say that Maya MacGregor's writing is radiant. Their words and descriptions flow like poetry, using the most unexpected metaphors and analogies to describe things in the most perfect, spot-on way. The plot weaves along at a beautiful pace, like a emotional river shifting from rapids to calm. The dialogue is rich and deep, each interaction taking us further into the characters' heads and hearts. And I particularly enjoyed the intriguing narrative point of view - neither first nor third person, but a gorgeous, striking use of "you" throughout the book.

Will's story was tragic, heartbreaking, painful, and full of loss. But Will themself was a strong, determined, courageous person with a fiery desire to live rather than just survive. They thought they were a monster, but they were their own monster. They didn't let the world swallow them up.

Julian's character was incredible. They were a much-needed calm in the storm of Will's life. Having two non-binary leads is still so amazing to see, especially ones as well-written as Will and Julian.

All in all, not an easy book to read, but an important and magnificent one. We are not the monsters the world wants us to be. We are deserving of love and life, and this book is a reminder to never stop fighting for that.

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