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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Book Nook: ‘Always the Almost’ is a beautiful story of queer, trans joy


Edward Underhill’s debut novel, “Always the Almost,” is a heartfelt and emotional young adult contemporary romance releasing next year from Macmillan. Midwestern pianist and high schooler Miles Jacobson has just come out as trans — the result of which is a strain on his relationship with his parents and his boyfriend, Shane, ending things with him. And while his friends are accepting of him, ever since Miles and Shane began dating, he’s felt out of place. It doesn’t help, either, that his new piano teacher keeps telling Miles that he needs to figure out who he is. Desperate for a win, Miles resolves to get back together with his ex and beat his stuck-up rival at an upcoming piano competition. But when Miles meets Eric, a new boy who’s just moved into their small town, everything changes. Asthe two bond over their art — Eric with his cartoons and Miles with his music — and go from friends to more, Miles begins to question who he is, what he truly wants, and why he’s never felt like he’s enough for anyone, especially himself.  

A trained conductor, cellist and music composer, Underhill infuses every piano scene in the novel with stunning detail and enthralling prose. Miles’ love for music, even when he’s unsure of himself, can be felt through every page. “Always the Almost” is many things, but most of all it is a love letter to queer and trans kids. Set in a small town where Miles’ tightly knit queer friend group faces homophobia, transphobia and other bigoted perspectives, the novel doesn’t shy away from the hard parts of being queer in today’s society, but it’s still infused with so much joy. There’s the tenderness of the feeling of falling in love for the first time, of finding the people and the things that make you feel more like yourself than anything else, and coming into yourself fully. Ultimately, Miles’ journey is not only one of self-discovery but also of what comes after. The process of embracing yourself in spite of everyone else. What it means to carve out a space for yourself in a place and a world that denies your existence. And how there’s strength in joy because, for marginalized people, it can and always will be an act of resistance.

In the novel’s foreword, Underhill promises readers that this book has a happy ending, and he delivers on that promise beautifully. No matter which character of the main cast readers see themselves as, they can know that no matter their identity, a happy ending exists for them — even if they haven’t seen it before.

“Always the Almost” is the perfect read for anyone looking for a book with queer and trans joy, a striking exploration of music, and a gorgeous cover. The novel is currently available for preorder.