Book Review: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
Pub Date: 5 July 2022
Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.

In this exhilarating 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.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Childhood cancer, suicide (graphic, on-page), student-teacher relationship, abuse, sexism, racism, parental death, car accident, workplace shooting

I buddy-read this with Leslie but I was a terrible buddy reader this time because after I got to a certain % on the third day of our read, I found myself physically unable to stop and I ended up finishing the book way ahead of her. 🫣 Not only did I finish ahead, but I couldn’t stop telling her how much I cried and hurt while reading. The things she has to put up with from me! 😂 ILY, friend!

*****

TL;DR: So much of this book is full of things that I hate. Semi-love triangles, toxic relationships, terribly unlikeable characters who consistently make poor decisions, and a horrendous lack of communication between characters. And YET, I seem to have found myself loving this book. Zevin pulled me in right from the beginning and didn’t let go until the very end. She turned me into this raging, ugly crying, hot mess of a human with the intensity of the emotion she evokes throughout this story. This book is tragically sad and painful and at times unpleasant to endure but it will make you feel EVERYTHING, AND EVERYTHING, AND EVERYTHING. And that’s why I loved this book so much.

I honestly don’t know if there’s anything I could say that other people haven’t already but you know I’m here to write my essay! It’s been quite a while since I’ve read any literary fiction, and though this is my first book by Zevin, it’s safe to say that she has a new fan in me and it certainly won’t be my last!

There are actually plenty of reasons that I think readers won’t like this and I get it. There’s a lot in this that I normally wouldn’t like and though I often found myself frustrated with what was happening in the story, I was surprised to find myself fully invested in Sam and Sadie from the beginning. If you have no interest in gaming or game dev, you might find yourself bored and not enjoy this. You might struggle if you don’t like a slow-paced slice-of-life type of story that meanders here and there. And if you can’t tolerate unlikeable characters who repeatedly make awful life decisions, without facing any weighty repercussions, then you’ll probably really not like this. I would also advise checking the content warnings before reading as certain parts of the story can be triggering or just be generally unpleasant to read.

But on the other hand…

This is a coming-of-age about two friends who are repeatedly pulled together and grow apart over the course of a lifetime. It’s such a humanistic story. They share dreams, successes, and failures. They experience joy, hate, jealousy and many other complicated and messy emotions that we do in real life. It’s mostly about game development and the countless hours of work that go into it. It’s always about friendship, family, love and loyalty. It’s about coping with hardships, grief and loss, processing and healing. It’s about finding YOUR people and thriving with them. The author also touches on social injustices, racism, and sexism in such a conversational tone and I enjoyed the way she weaved the social commentary into the story; it’s prominent but not shoved down your throat. There is also rep for disability and chronic illness and pain that was written in an organic way.

“This is what time travel is. It’s looking at a person, and seeing them in the present and the past, concurrently. And that mode of transport only worked with those one had known a significant time.”

This was an extremely readable book albeit there’s a deep sense of melancholia that permeates the whole thing and it made me Incredibly Sad™️I mean, I was intermittently ugly crying/silently tracking tears down my face while reading the last three parts. I was shocked by how quickly I flew through these pages, even when certain chapters were filled with intimidatingly thick chunks of text. Zevin’s prose was excellent and I enjoyed how quickly she pulled me into the lives of these fictional people. The gaming aspect was so much fun and I loved the creativity and the behind-the-scenes of what it takes to make a game. It was wonderfully nostalgic to read about many of the games I played in my childhood from Oregon Trail to Sonic the Hedgehog and Crash Bandicoot to Doom to Harvest Moon. I loved and still love these games so much and reading about them made me feel wistful but you don’t need to be a gamer to enjoy the passion they have for it.

“It isn’t a sadness, but a joy, that we don’t do the same things for the length of our lives.”

I marvelled at how Zevin was able to make me care about and feel wholly invested in deeply flawed characters that I would normally detest. If I’m being honest, Sam & Sadie especially were so easy to dislike (and at times maybe even to hate) and I often vacillated between those two feelings. If you’re looking for a story with an honest and wholesome friendship full of love this is not the one! What starts as a life-saving childhood connection begins again as a rekindled friendship after years of estrangement, and eventually becomes a hurtful and ugly thing that ends up being more toxic for these characters than anything good. Though they were equally flawed, I empathised more with Sam after a certain point. He was often a crude asshole and while I might not have liked how he acted and some of the decisions he made, there’s such a relatable and sometimes pitiful quality to him that made him so painfully human. I also saw parts of myself in how he viewed himself and my heart hurt from all the trauma he experienced in his life and how alone he was through everything.

“Why do you keep coming?” she asked.
“Because,” he said. 
Click on this word, he thought, and you will find links to everything it means. Because you are my oldest friend. Because, once, when I was at my lowest, you saved me. Because I might have died without you or ended up in a children’s psychiatric hospital. Because I owe you. Because, selfishly, I see a future where we make fantastic games together, if you can manage to get out of bed. “Because,” he repeated.”

In contrast, I found Sadie incredibly difficult to tolerate even when I empathised with the things she endured to find success in her work. She’s sharp and brilliant but I couldn’t stand how she took absolutely zero responsibility for her own actions. She projected every hurtful experience and all her spiteful and jealous emotions onto Sam. She was literally the worst and I found it unforgivable how easy it was for her to abandon and vilify her closest friend over something assumed and yet she so easily forgave others who hurt her and easily welcomed them back into her life, including her abusive groomer of an ex. Although I agree that Sam & Sadie treated each other poorly, I hated how unnecessarily cruel she became in their later years. It wasn’t even satisfying to see her acknowledge her cruelty when she looks back on the actions of her younger self. Yes, friends can sometimes be hurtful and take each other for granted but not like this and ultimately, it made me sad that their friendship became a farce of what one should be.

Out of everyone though, my favourite person was the “NPC” in their story, Marx. Generous and kind, fun-loving and charming, and oh-so-devastatingly handsome Marx Watanabe. My heart! 🥹 He’s the glue that keeps their dream running and he’s their person when they’re no longer each others’ persons. Life is unfair and let’s just say that when the title of this book became clear to me, it knocked me absolutely flat!

“Memory, you realized long ago, is a game that a healthy-brained person can play all the time, and the game of memory is won or lost on one criterion: Do you leave the formation of memories to happenstance, or do you decide to remember?”

So now that I’ve written this essay, I’m not sure if it’s any clearer why I loved this book so much. 😂 As I said, I normally wouldn’t enjoy so many elements in this story but I’m an emotional reader and sad books, while they make me ugly cry, also usually end up making me feel so much that I end up loving them. For all the flaws in this story, Zevin had a Herculean grip on my emotions right from the start and she managed to not only make me feel every spectrum of emotion throughout this read but she made me feel it all SO FCKING MUCH.

What else can I say except that I loved it?

Have you read Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow or is it on your TBR?

22 thoughts on “Book Review: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

  1. When this book was coming out, I thought that it sounded like one that on paper would be right up my alley, but actually I was pretty sure I would hate it. I’ve steered clear. But then it was a botm winner and I got it for free so I guess I’ll try it, but honestly I still think I’ll hate it for all the things you mentioned in here. xD It was also a Goodreads award winner and I typically dislike the books that win for fiction there so 😐

    I’m so excited that your managed to enjoy it though. Reading this review was a wonderful experience. I felt like I was right there with you through your time reading, and I especially loved the way you described how it kept you in Herculean grip. Wonderful phrasing and really lovely writing. Ice read no other reviews, so I appreciate your essay, as you say. 😂❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha, I honestly don’t blame you if you don’t pick it up because I mean, I can acknowledge how imperfect the book was and how frustrating the characters were and how the ending wasn’t half as satisfying as I hoped it would be. And yet, it’s still living rent-free in my head and I know it will for a while to come. It’s like how I felt about Normal People and I still consider that one of my favourites to date. I guess I just like those sad books that make me feel all the ugly, messy, hopeful emotions. And thanks so much, Jennifer! I was actually really proud of this review (and I don’t say that a lot) but I felt so satisfied and happy when I finished writing it even though it’s a whole-ass essay (I mean, could it be any longer). I’m so so glad that you enjoyed reading it. Thanks for taking the time to do so! I appreciate you 💜

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      • Yeah I have to be really ready for a painful book, like The Cat I Never Named, and even that had a lot of hope somehow included. Your care in this review really affected it, and in a great way. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I have read several books by Zevin, and I think her writing is phenomenal. This book is an example of how good her storytelling is. I also was fully invested in Sam and Sadie, but I am a bit of an outlier (I rated 4/5). I think that’s my personal needs though, and no reflection on how well written or interesting this story was. I was ok with all the pain (and OMG, that MIT prof was the worst!), but I needed more hope at the end. It was a very melancholy read. Even though these two had good things happen, they were just always sad. You know I need those uplifting books. Still good though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m looking forward to picking up my copy of AJ Fikry. Her writing really is fantastic. I’m surprised by how readable this was and how quickly I flew through the pages. She’s definitely a great storyteller! I actually feel like I’m more of the outlier with my 5-star rating, especially because I can acknowledge how imperfect this book was and yet I still loved it so much anyway. 😂 I know this is going to live rent-free in my head for a while yet~! And YES, that MIT professor! He was a despicable human and made me feel so sick. 😤 I do agree that the ending, compared to the rest of the book, was a bit unsatisfying—I definitely wanted a more hopeful and happy end too but I do like how Zevin brought the story around full circle, showing maybe there’s a chance for them to restart just like they did as college freshers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have read Firky, Elsewhere, Young Jane Young, and Teenage Amnesiac — all great! I think you can love something that is imperfect. I just know I need to feel a certain way at the end to give 5-stars. Not everyone needs that, and that is ok

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  3. Love your review..!!! It’s so thoughtful. This book has been on my radar for a long while now and I even got the audiobook, but just never got around to it. But now that I see that it’s quite sad, it’s probably not my thing at all. I’ve been actively trying to avoid ugly crying inducing books since the pandemic began. And I’m also skeptical about reading a book with a suicide on page because that’s a huge trigger for me and I don’t know if I’ll be prepared for that.
    Thank you for such a wonderfully clarifying review…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! I’m so glad that it helped you figure out whether this book would be for you or not. It’s quite a painful and very melancholy book which I definitely didn’t expect. I don’t know if you’ve ever read A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara but I got similar sad vibes as that book although on a much less intense/traumatic scale! 😅 This, for me at least, was definitely an ugly cry book but I’m quite an emotional reader so it really got me good, lol. Thanks again for taking the time to read my review and leave a comment—I really appreciate it! 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sorry that it took me so long to get to this. I’ve been terrible at blog hopping lately. I’ve been sleeping instead. haha. This review is pretty epic, Dini. I can feel why you loved it so much! I’m so glad that we buddy-read it together. It’s totally okay that you finished before me, haha!! ❤

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