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Everything Happens Today by Jesse Browner

Everything Happens Today

by Jesse Browner

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As far as young-adult novels go, I think this ranks right up there with Perks of Being a Wallflower and Speak. There isn't anything traumatic about the book as there is in those other two, but that doesn't mean the novel doesn't equally capture teenage angst and the sort of intellectual machinations teenagers go about. I particularly liked the ways in which Browner tied teenage judgment of adult decisions/situations into the character's thought process: all teens judge their parents particularly harshly, which perhaps becomes one of the biggest regrets of many adult lives.

I gave my copy of this book to my teenage son to read. I hope he likes it as much as I did. ( )
  Seven.Stories.Press | Jun 13, 2014 |
This book takes place over the course of one day: from Wes arriving home very early in the morning, to when he goes out to walk the dog that evening. Unlike many books that take place in short time periods, there aren't extensive flashbacks; only enough to fill in the necessary parts of the story, and even then they aren't flashbacks as much as a natural meandering of Wes's thoughts. Wes is a particular kind of teenager - intelligent, meditative, bookish - ahead of his years in some ways, but appropriately teenager-ish in others. More than almost any other novel I have read, Everything Happens Today captures the ongoing stream of thoughts and actions of one person throughout one day.

Wes thought that it was probably too late for his own father, too; he had invested too much already in all the paraphernalia that the blind need to get around in this world... (121)

How could he be sure he was in love? How could he know, now that it was so important to know?Is it easier to tell that you're in love if you've never been in love before, because it's something so different from anything you've ever felt, or if you have been in love before, because you recognize the feeling? And if you can't remember the feeling, is it because you've never had it or because it's different every time? (131)

[On cooking and life] But even if you do get it wrong, there is something reassuring and simple in the knowledge that certain rules and certain procedures, if followed, will and must yield certain results. If you understand what you want, and precisely what you need to do to get it, you ought not to end up with your heart broken or your thoughts confused. (195-96)

It wasn't the love that was difficult; it was the communication of love. It was the willingness of the other to be loved and to look for the love. (208) ( )
  JennyArch | Apr 3, 2013 |
This is a wonderful novel about one day in the life of Wes, a seventeen-year-old boy in an elite school in Manhattan. But while this is usually the recipe for eye rolling in my opinion (sorta had it with the disenchanted, cruel, rich white kid set), this was a great book! I loved Wes. He is a teenager to be sure, but grappling with some things all humans face, and trying to figure out a kind way to get there - and see people for who they really are. Some of Wes's mental wanderings are absolutely priceless, and there are many of them, from reflections "War and Peace," Bob Ross the television painter, Buddhism and the gift of a good teacher. My only complaint, which is why I did not rate this at five stars, is I was patently aware that this was a forty-something person/author writing as a teenager. Most observations were just "too" astute, too, well, life-experience gained, and not the acumen most teenagers have. Wes had a some hardships to deal with, for sure (a distant father and a dying mother), but he just seemed way too wise and experienced for his young age. That being said, it's a great book and I recommend it highly. ( )
  CarolynSchroeder | Apr 5, 2012 |
Wes is seventeen, but he feels much, much older the night that he takes the long walk home from an Upper East Side apartment to his house in Greenwich Village. For an average seventeen year old guy, the night he loses his virginity would be a momentous occasion. Wes, however, is anything but average as we come to find out during the course of the next day of his life as he reflects on losing his virginity to the "wrong" girl, nurses his terminally ill mother, tries to make a deadline for a revised paper about War and Peace, and attempts to cook a bizarre meal that will bring his whole fragile family to the table. In the course of one ordinary yet extraordinary day, Wes grows up and learns some important lessons all while readers are treated to a unique and extremely vividly drawn family and a main character whose unexpectedly deep thoughts about life and love appeal to our own experience.

Through much of the reading, Everything Happens Today inspires mixed feelings. On one hand, Browner's choice to write his novel without chapter breaks has the tendency to make Wes's narrative monotonous, and gives the impression that Wes's sometimes incessant navel-gazing will proceed in circles without breaks or ends indefinitely not unlike Borges' Library of Bable, an illustration Wes is particularly drawn to. On the other hand, getting inside Wes's thought-pattern and learning the reasoning that drives him is what ends up making Everything Happens Today stand out. Wes is a more or less typical teenager who spends a little too much time with his iPhone, wonders if he is good enough for the girl he loves (or if what he feels for her is even truly love), and gets frustrated with his family, but Wes is also a bookish, thoughtful sort of guy who loves his family sacrificially, wants to be a truly good person, and struggles with the decisions he's making as he works his way into an unstoppable adulthood where his dearest wish is that he not become his father. In short, Wes is a lovable narrator both despite and because of his perpetual over-thinking, and he will make readers root for him that he might come to an understanding and an acceptance of his life such as it is.

Even though Wes is the heart and soul of the book, Browner creates a cast of secondary characters - Wes's parents, his sister, his best friend, the girls he might or might not be in love with - that leap off the page. His beloved little sister comes off just as quirky and innocent as intended. His father shuffles through a life populated with broken dreams and unmet potential that Wes himself loathes. His ill mother is a fragile shell of herself whose former life is barely visible beneath her current circumstances. His friend is the perfect well-intentioned meddler. The girls he falls for are as much fully fleshed out characters in their own right as they are lessons in what love really looks like for the hapless Wes.

It would be lying to say that Wes's deep thoughts combined with their lack of chapter breaks don't make Everything Happens Today a little difficult to tackle. That said, what I've come to appreciate about the Europa Editions books that I've read thus far, is that they make me think and work at them a little before yielding what is nearly always a rewarding, if somewhat atypical, reading experience. I'm fully convinced that readers will fall in love with loyal, well-intentioned Wes, just as I did, and be caught up in and ultimately charmed by this unusual tale of coming of age today. ( )
  yourotherleft | Oct 29, 2011 |
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Wes attends Manhattan'ss elite Dalton School and lives in Greenwich Village in a dilapidated town house with his terminally ill mother, distant father and beloved younger sister. In the course of one day everything will happen to Wes: he will lose his virginity to the wrong girl and break his own heart, try to meet a Monday morning deadline for a paper on War and Peace, and prepare an elaborate supper he hopes will reunite his family.… (more)

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