A survival story that feels very real
Updated: Jun 20
This Can Never Not Be Real by Sera Milano, Farshore Books
This Can Never Not Be Real is an incredibly powerful book which takes readers right into the centre of a terrorist attack at a festival in a small town. We never learn anything about the perpetrators or their motives, which is as it should be. The story focuses instead on some of the teenage survivors, their relationship to one another, and how their lives are irrevocably altered by this experience.
The story is brilliantly written with an intriguing, dynamic plot and a host of compelling characters. It took me a while to read this book because it was so vivid and intense. I really felt like I was there, and it was enormously stressful at times, it even inspired some very dramatic dreams! I can't believe how deeply this book got under my skin and how much the story has stayed with me too.
It’s narrated by a wide variety of characters, which handled less skilfully might be overwhelming and disorientating. But Sera Milano manages to bring each protagonist and their unique inner worlds to life brilliantly. The selection of protagonists is remarkably diverse. From “popular” kids to those bullied mercilessly, Black, Asian or minority ethnic, and LGBTQ teens, a broad range of perspectives and voices are represented.
We get inside the head of each character and gradually become better acquainted with each one. This introduces readers to a range of experiences, often at odds with appearances, and demonstrates how other people's lives aren't always as perfect as they seem. As the protagonists get to know one another better, they also grow more self-aware, and their own strength and resilience is revealed to them too.
My heart was pounding in my chest the whole time I was reading this and some of the scenes moved me to tears. Despite the violence and devastation on which the plot is centred, this is a remarkably hopeful, positive and defiant story. Love is shown to be indestructible and the force that ultimately always wins. This Can Never Not Be Real is the first book I've read by Sera Milano, and I can't wait to discover more of her work.
About the author:
Sera Milano has previously written two Kirkus-starred LGBTQ+ comic novels for younger readers, Boy Meets Hamster and Boy Meets Ghoul, under the name Birdie Milano. Sera earned a first-class honours degree in creative writing from St Mary’s University, London, and a MA with distinction in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University, where she won the 2015 United Agents Prize for Most Promising Writing for Young People. This Can Never Not Be Real is her first young adult novel. Sera lives in Guildford, Surrey with her rescue dog, Moppet and wonky cat, Ziggy. She has written extensively on the importance of LGBTQ representation in fiction for young people for the Daily Express.
A huge thank you to the publisher for the advance reader copy I received via NetGalley - all opinions expressed are my own.