{Review} TODAY TONIGHT TOMORROW by Rachel Lynn Solomon

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

5:54 a.m.

MCNIGHTMARE: Good morning! This is a friendly reminder that you have three (3) hours and counting before suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of your future valedictorian. Bring tissues. I know you're a crier.

   The text jolts me from sleep a minute before my 5:55 alarm, three quick pulses to let me know my least favorite person is already awake. Neil McNair--"McNightmare" in my phone -- is annoyingly punctual. It's one of his only good traits.

(Pages 3, US ARC edition)

“'What if we upped the stakes?'
'I'm listening.'
'A bet,' he proposes. 'You and me. A bet to cap off our epic four years of academic bloodshed.'


There is nothing I love more than a good hate-to-love to fuel the tension of a story. When everyone on social media started murmuring about an upcoming YA contemporary release entitled TODAY TONIGHT TOMORROW by Rachel Lynn Solomon, I was instantly intrigued. I had never heard of the author, despite her having two previously published YA novels. But a YA novel being compared to Sally Thorne's THE HATING GAME? Okay, tell me more! (Almost right after this discovery, I saw an announcement that Solomon had sold her first adult rom-com, THE EX TALK, which is also hate-to-love, and I was already so sold on this author, sight unseen!...unread?)

This book takes place in a day, from the last day of school until the morning after, and centers around a game called Howl that the entire Senior class takes part in. Only the first 50 Seniors who figure out the first clue will move on to the scavenger hunt around Seattle. But, wait, there's a twist: There's also a "kill list" and if someone drew your name and steals your armband, you're out. Who will find the first 15 clues and stay alive long enough to win?  

When I first heard of Howl, I immediately thought of the song "Go" from the musical Freaky Friday (Which was a Disney Channel Original movie in 2018 and can currently be found on Disney+:


The way Howl opens in the book with everyone's phones going off and the contagious excitement of the players had this movie scene when The Hunt kicks off going through my head the entire time, and of course, I had to stop and watch the music video and bring it even more to life!

I also thought of the movie Nerve, which was adapted from the YA novel by Jeanne Ryan, though there are fewer similarities:

Howl is also a little like the icebreaker / party game Mafia, but also entirely its own beast.

It's funny: When I first saw Freaky Friday the Musical and all the excitement surrounding The Hunt, I was a little skeptical because I had never seen such a high stakes scavenger hunt around the city before. But they've been popping up more and more lately (In fact, when I re-read WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon earlier this month, there is also a scavenger hunt, though on a much smaller scale), and I have to imagine these are real hunts that exist. I love the way an extra thrill was mixed in with sort of a Mafia element, where you may not survive to win if you can't guess who wants to "kill" you before you can escape!

To add even more tension to the game, Solomon pairs up two teens who hate each other: Rowan Roth and Neil McNair.  In one of their conversations, Neil calls their interactions "academic bloodshed." It has been a brutal four years, and now, they are down to their last two fights: The fight to be crowned Valedictorian, and the fight to win Howl. When Rowan finds out who has Neil's name, she could let him die and sweep the win. Instead, she warns him and they decide to pair up. It wouldn't be fun if one was taken out too early in the game. They want it to be down to the two of them, just the same as always. 

Due to this unlikely pairing, Rowan and Neil begin to learn real details about one another that flesh them out to one another as human beings, and they find themselves falling more on the 'love' side than the 'hate' side they've always known...

One of the things that Rowan and Neil have in common that is a huge stand-out is the fact that they're both Jewish and there is a scene where Rowan brings Neil over to observe Shabbat dinner with her family. There are so many frank discussions about being Jewish and what prejudice they've experienced. Rowan has always wanted a friend who was Jewish who would get her and never found one. She could count the Jewish kids at school on one hand and they were in completely different circles. Until tonight, she didn't even know that red-haired Neil with his father's last name was even half Jewish. How different might these four years have been if they formed this connection sooner? Even though I'm not Jewish, I've often had teens come to me asking for YA novels with Jewish traditions. Sadly, there are not many, and it's heart-breaking. And even when there are, it's maybe a throw-away line and not steeped in tradition. This book is going to mean so much for so many Jewish teenagers, and I'm already excited to put it in their hands!

I also loved the fact that Rowan's parents are a Best Selling Children's picture book/chapter book writing duo. Seeing the way they work will be fun for anyone who is a reader and likes to see the behind-the-scenes of an author's life. They'll also love seeing how starstruck Neil gets finding out he's about to meet his favorite childhood authors. I mean, I would be flailing everywhere if that was me! There is also such good, frank discussion about the way readers often look down on a genre if they see it as "below" them. Rowan often gets flack for loving romance novels -- and there is an amazing author's note at the back where Solomon talks about how she herself wasn't a huge reader of the genre until after the 2016 election and how much her reading transformed and was enlightened. Rowan keeps her love secret, especially since she's writing a romance novel. Neil has always ribbed her about them since she wrote an essay Freshman year about her love for a Nora Roberts book. Her friends always trash-talk the genre. Her parents don't see it as "real fiction." But it turns out, her Best Selling parents have also had people ask when they were going to write "real books" instead of books for little kids. And we all know that YA fiction also gets trashed all the time. There are so many good, eye-opening discussions for readers to consider throughout the book.

While I often struggle with books set over a really short period because it's so hard to find the development of feelings to be authentic, I think TODAY TONIGHT TOMORROW really succeeded here. Rowan and Neil already have a very strong history, and hate-to-love itself is such an established trope that readers usually assume the characters don't really hate each other and are masking their chemistry for one another, which always leads to explosive revelations. So that is the perfect combo for a book set over such a short period. There are also so many great, needed conversations about relationships themselves. What do you want out of a relationship? How fast do you want to go? What do you believe in? There is a gorgeous conversation late in the book between Rowan and Neil that is incredibly honest. It doesn't give teens false expectations. Rowan and Neil understand that they can't instantly be "romance-level perfect" and that they may never get things perfect "the first time, and probably not the second or third either. Maybe not ever, honestly, but it'll be ours. And...that might be better" (Page 358, US ARC Edition). So many books for teens romanticize relationships: How easy they are, how perfect they are, how amazing everything always is. And the truth is, relationships take a lot of work. they often aren't perfect. That doesn't make them any less meaningful or less extraordinary. We need more conversations and moments like this in YA. We need to normalize that relationships can't always be perfect, especially first love. Morgan also has great conversations with her parents about her relationships and doesn't hide and sneak around, which is another great role model we need more of in YA. I really liked how everyone just...talks about things. It felt very authentic and really helped flesh everything out more and build up the characters.

TODAY TONIGHT TOMORROW is a great quick read to pick up full of full tropes, fun games, and important messages, and will appeal to both teens and adults. For some extra fun, definitely watch the  <i>Freaky Friday </i>"Go" musical once or twice or 500 times before/during reading to really heighten your experience!



If you order from Third Place Books and comment in the Notes Section, Rachel Lynn Solomon will sign and personalize your book!

PLUS, you'll be helping an indie bookstore stay open during the pandemic. Win/Win!


"It's unnerving, realizing how much I have in common with someone I spent so much time plotting to destroy."(Page 165)

"The uncertainty in his voice unstitches me." (Page 332)


Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG15+ ( Kissing; heavy making out; sex scene -- with a really franky, healthy conversation about expectations beforehand. )
Language: PG13 ( Mostly F-bombs, but also light cursing such as shitty & asshole. A Jewish slur from a secondary character; Frank sexual talk. )
Violence: --
Other:  PG13 ( A character mentions she used to smoke joints behinds the bleachers; The MCs go to a hash shop and buy cookies to experience an exhibit slightly high. A condom falls out of a character's locker and there is talk about sex; the MC mentions reading romance novels as a kid and wondering about the sex scenes and how she viewed romance/sex/love/etc. through them. It's also very good at mentioning that school has a Sex Ed Class and that she has frank, honest discussions with her parents about sex. There is also positive talk about virginity. Everything is handled very responsibly.)
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

It's really cute and playful! I like how we get three different scenes featuring the couple based on whether it's "today," "tonight," or "tomorrow." The bench also appears throughout the novel between chapters AND there's a hidden bench design if you take off the jacket!

It's just so playful, and I enjoy that a lot!
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon
Release Date: July 28, 2020
Publisher: Simon Pulse / Simon & Schuster
Received: For Review

THE HATING GAME meets NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST by way of Morgan Matson in this unforgettable romantic comedy about two rival overachievers whose relationship completely transforms over the course of twenty-four hours.

Today, she hates him.

It’s the last day of senior year. Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been bitter rivals for all of high school, clashing on test scores, student council elections, and even gym class pull-up contests. While Rowan, who secretly wants to write romance novels, is anxious about the future, she’d love to beat her infuriating nemesis one last time.

Tonight, she puts up with him.

When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan has only one chance at victory: Howl, a senior class game that takes them all over Seattle, a farewell tour of the city she loves. But after learning a group of seniors is out to get them, she and Neil reluctantly decide to team up until they’re the last players left—and then they’ll destroy each other.

As Rowan spends more time with Neil, she realizes he’s much more than the awkward linguistics nerd she’s sparred with for the past four years. And, perhaps, this boy she claims to despise might actually be the boy of her dreams.

Tomorrow…maybe she’s already fallen for him.