Everything All at Once is the third novel by Katrina Leno. Lottie Reaves is a senior in high school when her beloved aunt Helen dies of cancer. Aunt Helen was the author of the bestselling Alvin Hatter series, a children’s series about siblings who discover the key to immortality. When aunt Helen dies, she leaves 24 letters to Lottie, each containing a request. These letters are meant to push Lottie out of her comfort zone, to guide her through her aunt’s death, and to help her experience the magic of life. Lottie, who has dealt with anxiety and panic attacks before her aunt’s death, uses these letters to try to quell the bubbling anxiety that threatens to spill over as she thinks of the meaning of life and death. These letters end up revealing a secret aunt Helen has kept for over 20 years: one that forces Lottie to confront her greatest fear head on.
Everything All at Once discusses anxiety, death, cancer, friendship, and secrets. It has a unique structure that begins as a contemporary fiction novel and gradually blends in fantasy and magic.
Lottie suffers with anxiety throughout the novel. After her aunt’s death, she is forced to think about her place in life and the meaning of life and death. Overcome with fears of death, Lottie uses her aunt’s letters to take a leap and really live. Encouraged by her aunt to go outside of her comfort zone, she goes on a series of mini-adventures with her family and friends (old and new) to face these fears and deal with her anxiety.
Cancer is a topic addressed head-on in this novel. Although the novel isn’t directly about Helen and her struggles with cancer, it does discuss how it affects each person differently. Everything All at Once doesn’t skim over this heavy topic, but it maintains a lighter tone throughout by focusing on the positive attitude of Helen as she went through this experience and uses the letters to convey that attitude to Lottie.
Everything All at Once is a blend of contemporary young adult fiction and magic. The majority of the novel is contemporary fiction, but the end of the novel adds a hint of magic. Additionally, Leno chose to incorporate a few paragraphs from aunt Helen’s Alvin Hatter series before each of her chapters. Each selected fantasy piece indirectly parallels the main story and the lives of its characters.
About the Author:
Katrina Leno is the author of three novels. She has battles with depression and generalized anxiety since her early teen years and uses her novels to discuss these issues. She grew up on the East Coast and currently lives in Los Angeles.
“Leno’s writing is flawless…a beautifully interwoven story filled with much depth. Readers of all ages will find themselves swept away, right along with Lottie, until the very last page.” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)
“A charming and sophisticated take on handling grief with a mystical twist ending that is sure to engage teens nostalgic for the magic of reading Harry Potter or Tuck Everlasting for the first time.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“A truly captivating tale about grief and the affirming power of self-examination.” (Booklist)
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
Review by Rachel H.