Before the book:
I first heard about TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW by Gabrielle Zevin when a fellow children’s author shouted this out as a recent favorite on Twitter. The jacket copy explains that in this novel, “two friends — often in love, but never lovers — come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.” I’ll admit that the mention of video games did not immediately light up my soul. My parents never bought us video games when we were kids, though our neighbors did have an old Donkey Kong machine we found mesmerizing. My kids don’t play them either, but they are certainly curious. Still, the fact remains that video games are a part of our culture. The prospect of learning more about them intrigued me. And the title really peaked my curiosity. Any Shakespeare allusion is going to get my English major’s heart thumping. (For those of you who weren’t giant word-nerds in high school, the title is taken from a famous monologue in Shakespeare’s MACBETH.)
The excerpts of praise on the back of the book promise “magnificent…storytelling” and “unforgettable characters.” I’m hoping this book will feel as immersive as the video games so many kids are enjoying today.
P.S. I gave myself a sneak peek of the first page, and what did I find? A mention of the old school Donkey Kong machine. Maybe this book is more up my alley than I thought.
TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW
by, Gabrielle Zevin
Not to be overly effusive, but holy-mackerel-sapphire I love this book. If you’re looking for an easy-peasy beach read, this is probably not the one for you. Not to say it’s overly challenging either. I’m exactly halfway through this novel, and so far the storytelling is engrossing, the writing is sharp, and the characters are gorgeously vivid. I care about Sam and Sadie (the dual protagonists), I’m rooting for them, I’m crushed by their betrayals, I want to yell at them when they act like idiots. I LOVE these two.
Here’s a little more detail on the dynamic game-designing duo (no spoilers):
Sam and Sadie meet as children while Sam is recovering from a terrible car accident in the same hospital where Sadie’s older sister is being treated for leukemia. Sam hasn’t spoken in weeks, but when Sadie wanders into the game room, they strike up a conversation about Super Mario Bros. Despite the fact that these two kids come from very different upbringings (one is the child of a single mother, living with his grandparents in the Korea-Town area of L.A., the other is a wealthy Jewish girl with seemingly every advantage), Sam and Sadie forge a friendship that is honest and true.
Of course, it’s not ALL smooth sailing. A perceived betrayal (and honestly, it was a pretty crummy thing for Sadie to do) leads to the dissolution of their friendship. Though they’ll reconnect as undergrads in Boston, the ups and downs of their personal (and professional) relationship are what propels the narrative forward and keeps the reader so invested in the story.
The second half of this book plunged into some unexpectedly dark territory. There was political controversy, personal loss, and violence. Moving from the relatively low-stakes world of video game design to deadly high-stakes circumstances with which all Americans are (unfortunately) familiar was a bit jarring. But this kind of sudden shift is just part of life, isn’t it? Everything is going along in a reasonably predictable way, and then BAM! Your world flips. Gabrielle Zevin returns to this theme repeatedly in the novel (ponder the symbolism of the Happy Foot/Sad Foot sign when you read). But the ultimate message of the book is one of optimism. Like in gaming, where lives are infinite and you can always try again, we can walk away from this novel feeling the power of possibilities. Things may (and often do) go awry, but there’s always tomorrow…and tomorrow…and tomorrow.