Born and raised in Mexico City, author Adi Alsaid loves all things spicy! Hot off the printer is his new YA novel Never Always Sometimes, about two best friends called Dave and Julia who made a list of things they promised never to do in high school; sensible stuff like ‘never hook up with a teacher’ and ‘never date you best friend’. But, as they reach the end of their time together at school, they learn that rules are made to be broken.
Where did the idea spring from for the story of Never Always Sometimes?
The idea of The Nevers list came up pretty early in the brainstorming process, but what I really latched on to was the thought of exploring two kids who’d lived mostly as outsiders, and what happens when that starts to change. Your teen years are such a struggle between figuring out who you are and how you fit into the world around you, and I wanted to tell a story that delved into that. With a healthy dose of unrequited love thrown in, of course.
Do you remember when you were first starting high school? Were you terrified?
I don’t remember it too well, actually. I have vague memories of the early years, but stronger recollections later on (reasonably, I guess). From what I can remember, I was never afraid of the start of high school, or even of high school as an experience. Maybe I was afraid of not fitting in, not finding friends or love or of being assigned another research project, but never of high school in general.
What was high school like for you? What are some of the most vivid memories you have from those years?
It was pretty good. I was similar to Dave and Julia in that I had my little circle of friends and didn’t often try to reach out beyond my circle of comfort. I was an avid reader and a huge basketball fan, which made me an interesting mix of nerdy and jock, although living in Mexico City, being a basketball player never led to the popularity associated with the clique. I was shy, still a few years away from really becoming myself. Many of my memories revolve around playing basketball or spending time with those handful of close friends, alternately laughing and wallowing in whatever silent crush I was putting myself through at the time.
Can you tell us a bit about Dave and Julia? If you saw them walking down a school hall together, what would your first impressions be?
Ironically, you might think they’re two pretty normal kids. They like to see themselves as outsiders, as living lives that stray from the beaten path. Most teenagers like to think that, so at first glance you’d assume they’re just like everyone else. They avoid cliques, living in their little world of two, indulging in activities that others might deem weird (and in Julia’s case, maybe indulging in those acts a little too purposefully).
Why does Dave feel like a ‘lucky puddle’?
Because he’s in love with his best friend. Being around Julia makes him feel fortunate, as he truly relishes any time he spends with her. But the desire for more and the refusal to act on the desire constantly reduces him to less solid states.
“As long as we don’t get turned into something that looks more like high school, more like everybody else and less like us, I’ll be okay.” Do you think lots of kids try to give up their unique personalities during high school to fit in?
I don’t think so. I think some people’s personalities are more in line with those around them. Top 40 hits unite a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean those people are faking their preferences in order to fit in. Some might feel the need to suppress certain aspects of their personality in order to fit in, but I don’t think that it’s anything more obvious than what adults do in the “grown-up” world.
What’s one book that you wish you’d written?
Suddenly, A Knock at the Door by Etgar Keret.
What were some of your favourite books as a teenager?
Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut, Timbuktu by Paul Auster, Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King, The Blind Assassin by Margret Atwood
On your blog you’ve compiled a huge collection of quotes – choose one to share with us.
“An ordinary life examined closely reveals itself to be exquisite and complicated and exceptional, somehow managing to be both heroic and plain.”- The Bullfighter Checks her Makeup, Susan Orlean
What’s the most spicy dish you’ve eaten?
This summer in Thailand, my friends and I went to get some late night eats. Not knowing what most of the dishes were, I pointed to a bowl of soup another customer was eating. I have a pretty high tolerance and love of all things spicy, but I could not get through even half the soup. It was great.