Rachel Lynn Solomon has once again proven that the best books are a blend of too good to be true and heartbreakingly real. With her third novel, “Today Tonight Tomorrow,” Solomon said that she wanted to write a lighter novel, and, for the most part, she did. “Today Tonight Tomorrow” is filled with antics, mishaps and bonding moments full of character development, but also scenes that show the harsher sides of humanity and growing up.
The book opens on a high-stakes scenario: the last day of senior year. These early scenes set up a nostalgic, bittersweet feeling: the joy of graduation mixed with the sorrow of a painful goodbye. This opening is a strong emotional pull, but misleading. This isn’t her main challenge—her fight for valedictorian and a perfect last day is nothing compared to what she will endure once those school bells ring. Though it may seem like it at first, “Today Tonight Tomorrow” isn’t a love letter to high school, but rather a love letter to Solomon’s hometown of Seattle and teenage adventure.
Solomon invents a game called “Howl,” a scavenger hunt mixed with mafia tradition where seniors are expected to explore Seattle looking for clues while simultaneously trying to “kill” the other competitors. This game has main character Rowan Roth teaming up with her archnemesis, Neil McNair. Neil is initially set up as a villain, the descriptions aiming to make readers despise him from the very first moment. Rowan eventually discovers the humanity within Neil as he is slowly revealed to actually be a really sweet, totally normal guy.
The biggest surprise about Neil for Rowan is that he’s Jewish. Solomon writes Rowan as a lonely character, one who is proud of her Jewish heritage, but isolated from the culture. Rowan longs for Jewish friends early in the novel, people who understand her experiences with antisemitism, her feelings of otherness and a total disconnection with the month of December. She unexpectedly finds that in Neil. My favorite moments in this book all revolve around these types of deep conversations between the characters. The less pleasant side of the Jewish experience is often missing from Young Adult (YA) literature.
Solomon has never been afraid to examine intense topics in her novels. Both of her previous two novels also touch on the taboo. Despite the lighter tone of this novel, Solomon does not back down the likes of antisemitism, stigmas against romance novels and active self sabotage. Instead, she weaves them into plot lines and conversations throughout the entire book. It’s almost jarring to see. Provocative arguments and stances are explicitly written in a book that’s marketed as a simple enemies-to-lovers romance (Though that’s not to say that the novel would be bad if it were missing these topics—romance novels without controversy are great. Rowan goes on many rants about their importance throughout “Today Tonight Tomorrow,” and if I wasn’t convinced before, I certainly am now). Though the mixture of expected and unexpected is what I’ve come to appreciate and adore from Solomon’s works, it still surprises me every time.
With each new novel that she writes, Solomon stuns me more and more. “Today Tonight Tomorrow” is a true adventure from beginning to end. Winning “Howl” isn’t a life or death situation; it’s not even about the cash prize: it’s just about proving that she can. Rowan’s mission feels very important though the stakes are actually very low. Even the fluffiest of scenes contain so much depth, and Solomon’s characters are so lifelike that I feel as if I’ve been friends with them my whole life. Her next novel is set to change genres, from YA to adult. I’m so excited to see how she’ll push boundaries in a whole new space.