Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Pub. Date: Jul. 2022
First read of 2023! I really dropped the ball on my reviews last year – this year if I miss a book review, I’m just going to try and move on to the next book. If I’m not inspired to write the review, I don’t want the backlog to paralyze me from writing other reviews, which is what happened to me last year.
I’ve seen a lot of buzz about Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow. I didn’t love The Storied Life of AJ. Fikry as much as everyone else seemed to, and initially I saw some negative reviews for this one, so I was reluctant to pick it up. But the longer it’s been out, the more buzz and good things I’ve seen about it. It won Book of the Year for both the Goodreads Choice Awards (fiction) and Book of the Month, so I decided to finally pick up a copy!
I’m so glad I did, because I really loved it! I can see how it would be a hit or miss book for some people – it’s marketed as being about video games and the advertising is definitely accurate. However, if you’re not a gamer, I don’t think you should be deterred from reading it. I am most definitely not a gamer and knew almost none of the games talked about in the book (pretty much just Super Mario), but I still really enjoyed it. The story centers around video games, but the book is ultimately about love and friendship, something easily relatable to any reader.
The story centers around two kids, Sam and Sadie, and follows them from age ~10-35. They meet at a sick kids hospital in the early 90’s and bond through their shared love of games. Over the years they have many moments of triumph, misunderstanding, and loss. Their lives are tightly knit together and yet they flit in and out of one another’s lives. There’s an atmosphere of regret that runs through the entire novel, which makes for a nostalgic and bittersweet reading experience.
What I liked about these characters is that they are both extremely flawed, and yet still lovable. They make mistakes and poor judgement; they fail to communicate with one another; and they are slow to forgive. They both intensely need one another, and yet they let so many things come between them throughout the years. The ending is not particularly cathartic, but the reality of their relationship was striking. There’s not one way to be a friend, nor is there one way to love someone. We are all shaped by our experiences and broken in ways that we can’t always express to those we love. I liked that this book explored the space in between friendships and romantic relationships. I really wanted these characters to be together, but the themes made me question why we tend to see the world this way? There are many types of love outside of romantic love and I liked that Zevin explored our more playful nature.
Ultimately this book is about our desire for playmates, both as children and adults. There are many ways this can be represented – in this book it’s through a love of literal games, but when I reflect on my own life, I recognize that I like to play through the medium of outdoor activities. My husband likes these activities to an extent, but I’ve also developed really meaningful relationships with friends who also like to play in the outdoors and they help to satisfy that part of my nature. We build friendships through our shared interests and hobbies and I like the importance placed on these relationships. We’re all just looking to connect with other people. Sam and Sadie understood each other through the art of playing video games. Their assessment that they would make poor romantic partners was likely correct, but it shouldn’t devalue their platonic relationship.
Overall, the characterization is extremely strong and it’s definitely why I loved the book. I felt drawn into Sadie and Sam’s life because they were well developed and fully realized characters. I shared in their joy and sadness – I connected with them. And as Zevin suggests, isn’t that what life is all about anyways?