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Only Ever Always

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  244 ratings  ·  40 reviews
This city's crumbling to nothing, to rubble around me. I walk and walk and scour and soft and quarry. I find what's left.

Claire lives in an ordinary world where everything is whole. But inside, Claire is broken, so she retreats into a dreamscape.

Clara's world has always been broken. She avoids the seamy side when she can, but with powerful people pulling the strings, it's
Paperback, 157 pages
Published August 2nd 2011 by Allen & Unwin (first published July 27th 2011)
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Average rating 3.52  · 
Rating details
 ·  244 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Claire is an ordinary girl whose world is about to be ripped to shreds. Her uncle Charlie has been in an accident, and no amount of promising from Claire’s mum will guarantee his health. While Claire waits to hear news from the hospital, she thinks about Charlie’s wife, Pia, and the baby on the way – Claire’s little cousin to-be.

In another time and place, Clara is on the wrong side of the river – a slum girl in a desolate world where zones have kings and Clara is torn between her own Andrew, and
Jul 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved Penni Russon's mysterious, elliptical novel of place, dreams, grief and identity. I was going to add time to that list, but that's not strictly accurate—it's not a time slip novel at all, although it feels very much like one, and reminds me of books like Charlotte Sometimes and even somehow Jill Paton Walsh's Goldengrove Unleaving. (The latter, I think, largely somehow in a shared mood or tone, as well as the non-straightforward narrative, of which, it must be said, I am a fan. It might ...more
WHAT I LIKED: Clara is a strong protagonist; she’s feisty and loyal. Clara’s world feels dystopian/post-apocalyptic/primitive, reminding me of the settings of Ship Breaker or Chaos Walking Trilogy. The connection between Clara’s and Claire’s worlds is enticing and has a kind of fairy tale/Peter Pan quality to it. The cast of characters is like a carnival with lots of villains and mysterious actors. The world Russon created is dreamy and magical, and delves into the idea of parallel universes.

Watermelon Daisy
May 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Only Ever Always stunned me by being a fantasy book.

In fact, I was ready to put it down, for I’ve read enough horribly-written fantasy books to put me off reading forever. But for some reason or another, I continued reading it. Maybe it was how the fantasy plot wasn’t completely set in another world, and was a dream instead. However, it doesn’t change the fact I’m happy to read it.

The book is beautiful, to say the least. I also like how Claire and Clara had similar names. Although that made it a
Christine Bongers
Jan 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: aussie-ya
Four-and-a-half stars for this eerie and unorthodox YA novel that tracks the pain of loss and leaving childhood behind across parallel lives. Claire's world is commonplace and familiar; Clara's, post-apocalyptic and dangerous. A music box provides the key to their worlds colliding in a shared dreamscape. Fascinating and adventurous in its writing, "Only Ever Always" is for those who love reading to be both challenging and mesmerising. ...more
Aug 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This review is also posted on my blog, In The Good Books.

Claire and Clara are one and the same, but of two very different worlds. Dire circumstances and eerie parallel music boxes will lead them to the other, but there's no balance to be found with them where they don't belong. Eventually, the question becomes, which is the dream and which is the dreamer? How much is real?

A lesser question: how little justice will I do this magical book?

Only Ever Always has the atmosphere of a fairy tale -- not
Adele Broadbent
Claire’s uncle has just been in a terrible motorcycle accident. She escapes into her dreams where another girl Clara comes alive. Clara lives in another place altogether – surrounded by rubbish and broken buildings. She must stay inside at night to avoid the Rangers and rabid dogs that prowl her streets. Clara too has someone she loves who needs medical care. Her friend Andrew needs medicine and in her search she ends up in Claire’s world. But which world is real? Claire’s or Clara’s….

An eerie b
Helen Merrick
Aug 31, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: aww2012
I thought I would love this book and was really looking forward to reading it. Maybe its just the strange head-space I'm in but it just didn't grab me. The writing is beautiful, the concept is gorgeous, the world is intriguing, the characters bizarre, and yet it just didn't click for me.

That said, I am certainly keen to follow up some more of Russon's work. (Her blog is rather awesome too!)
Sep 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book very much. The story was quite different and the blurb on the back cover does not come close to the sense of otherness that the author creates. The characters were fascinating complex and real - even the ones in the dream world. And what I loved the most were the worlds, by the end the author really has you thinking twice about which is real.
Amra Pajalic
Oct 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Only Ever Always is unlike anything I've read. It's like being in a dream and you're visiting a world you know you've been to before. Evereything is familiar and strange at the same time. It's a book that doesn't leave you when you've finished but permeates it's way through your mind. A hard book to describe, but a worthwhile read. ...more
Ben Payne
Nov 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written, the kind of book what reminds you what writing is for, after all.

Magic and a strange post-apocalyptic-ish worldscape, characters who are damaged but full of heart, and a story that is both realistic and tender. Not a word is wasted, and the writing is poetic and evocative.

Read it if you like to read good things.
Pam Saunders
Aug 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One of the few books this year I will consider re-reading. Not for a wide audience, adult readers of teen fiction will enjoy it and some selective teens. I think they struggled with the cover and it has ended up a bit bland.
Sep 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The author comes up with some very beautiful turns of phrase but idk how high she must have been to come up with this fever dream of a novel.
old account (rl)
May 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2014-read
This was one of those reads that I initially grabbed off my shelf without too much thought. It looked short, it had a cute cover and I was in the mood for something simplistic and easy since I had been off school sick the last few days. It wasn't until I had finished the book that I realised I had literally no clue what happened. I just sat back and stared at the cover waiting for it all to hit home, but nothing came. All I could remember was a blur of poetry and purple prose, a incomprehensible ...more
Zana Fraillon
Jul 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book lives inside me. I read it years ago and am still caught by flashes of memories of the characters that come to me at odd moments. Part of me believes they exist, somewhere out there, in some very true dreamscape just out of reach...beautiful writing and a truly original and remarkable story.
Jun 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Strange, but generally well-executed. There are a few places where the POV changes are jarring and Claire isn't half so engaging as Clara. ...more
Aug 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
I've always been wary of reviewers who call authors 'ambitious'. It seems like a potentially back-handed compliment; like, ambitious but didn't succeed? Ambitious in the evil stab-you-in-the-back way?

I must call Only Ever Always ambitious. And I mean ambitious in try-anything, why-the-hell-not way. Because this is a novel that combines first, third, AND second-person narratives, and that's pretty ambitious. And outrageous to even suggest. What's awesome is that, although I found the first few sh
Steve lovell
Sep 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
As a contributor to the excellent ‘Girlfriend’ series of novels, Russon knows what it takes to appeal to the average teenage reader, particularly of the feminine variety, in mass market form. There is the required quality writing, but to a fabric of formula. It is a pity the publisher saw fit to cease their production as they gave work to some fine established, as well as up-and-coming, Australian writers. Russon probably fits in the former category now, especially with the release of ‘Only, Eve ...more
Aug 13, 2013 rated it liked it
There are two switching POVs in this book, Claire and Clara. Claire is a kinda boring character, but Clara is so much more interesting! Her storyline is great, while Claire's I can't relate to either of the characters. I gave this book 2 stars, because a lot of things bothered me. I actually thought of dropping it, but decided not to because I hadn't read that much. I wasn't TOO disappointed. The writing style bothered me a lot. Claire's part was written in a mix of second and third p ...more
Dec 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult
Eh...well...not bad. She's not the first to explore the "who is the dreamer, who is the dreamed" plot, and this isn't a particularly glowing attempt, but it's not bad. The main negative point that sticks out to me is that her shifts from 2nd person to 3rd person and back (and occasionally to 1st person) are highly distracting. There's no need to shove all the grammatical persons into one novella unless it really, really works. (Hint: it doesn't work here.)

Otherwise? Claire doesn't feel like a fl
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, ya
I've put off writing this for far too long, as it's just not the kind of book that's easily summarized in order to start. Roz sent it to me, very kindly, and I was really glad to get the chance to read it. Very elliptical parallel worlds set up, that leaves you wondering if there really is one 'real world' and one dream one, or if it's something slightly less straightforward even than that. But by the time it comes together at the end, it doesn't really matter - what stays with you is how effect ...more
Caitlin Lillie
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book had so much potential and I wish I could have given it at least a three. However, I couldn't really get into the book because of a) the changing between characters (either was too distinct or not distinct enough, not enough time per person to really get to know them, etc.) and b) the changing between persons - third person and second. Writing a character from second person was also an interesting idea but didn't do it for me. Hopefully Penni Russon's other books interest me more becaus ...more
Sep 18, 2012 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read this book on a recommendation from a friend. It was a bit hard to get into at first, but after the first 15-20 pages I was hooked. If you like dystopian novels you will probably enjoy this. The main character is coping with grief, and enters an alternate dream world, where her alter ego is also dealing with a loss. The book is very descriptive, pretty short, and once you get past the differences in language in the alternate world scenes, it is enjoyable.
Feb 11, 2016 rated it liked it
"I am a dreamer too, and I must wake into a world of dreamers. You can feel it – can’t you? – the peeling off of me, another small loss you have to bear. We all bear it, as best we can, this infinite chain of miniature losses, a hundred thousand stories, a hundred thousand endings. A rehearsal you could call it, for the last ending that’s bound to come, eventually, somewhere in the white space between here and dreaming. " ...more
Aug 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
Honestly maybe it's the cold in the room I read this but I didn't like it. I could follow Claire and Clara's stories but the only think that linked them (in my mind was that they apparently looked alike) I didn't understand the whole "traveling to each others worlds". I understood the importance of the music box (the broken and whole one) but idk. I feel like I just wanted to finish it and not leave it half read. I personally don't recommend it. ...more
Aug 09, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didnt-finish
I didn't actually finish this it just wasnt the kinda book I found intresting but the way it's written is quite intresting and enjoyable to read . However after a while I just lost intrest and decided not to finish it because I really hate finishing a book just because I feel I have to. I still think that others might enjoy it it just wasnt my kinda book . ...more
Sep 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
To be honest, I didn't even finish the book. It was that boring for me, there were parts of the book that were interesting, but then I found myself lost again. Being a person occasionally 'judges a book by it's cover', I found it disappointing :(

Although it was a short book, I thought I would fly though this book easily, but I struggled, with it's confusing and strange story line..
Jul 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: australian, ya, read2011
Once I got used to a) the story being partly told in 2nd person and b) the dialect spoken in the other world, I quite enjoyed this novel. I love the premise, the characters were deep and vivid, it was only the techniques used that made this a tougher than I expected read.
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