Book Review: Everything I Thought I Knew

Book cover for Everything I Thought I Knew by Shannon Takaoka


Shannon Takaoka’s Everything I Thought I Knew is full of mystery and love. The novel begins with a teenage girl, Chloe, running during track practice with her best friend. As the novel progresses, her life takes a turn, and she needs a heart transplant. With the help of new friends and experiences, Chloe finds ways to explore her new life and investigate the mysteries it presents. 

After what becomes her final track practice, Chloe finds herself in a hospital bed attached to several machines. Takaoka uses vivid imagery and description to put an emphasis on Chloe’s thoughts as she finds out she needs a heart transplant. After her transplant was a success, Chloe begins to have thoughts and desires of experiences she had never thought about before, such as surfing and riding a motorcycle. 

Chloe’s personality used to be extremely logical and an image of a “perfect student.” She was phenomenal at track and had a perfect life, looking at colleges with her best friend and working extremely hard on her application. However, after her heart transplant, she begins to be drawn to things outside her normal comfort zone. Instead of surrounding herself with books and textbooks, she explores her new interests with her new friend Jane, who she met during summer school. For normal teenagers, shifts in interests are common, but for Chloe, this was strange because her entire life up until her senior year didn’t involve any drastic change in interests. Some of Chloe’s new interests are extremely risky, not only because of the activities themselves, but because Chloe isn’t able to relate to any other teen around her. Her desires changing after her heart transplant was incredibly strange and a phenomenon that couldn’t be explained by anyone around her. 

So, being extremely logical, Chloe begins to investigate these desires. Here, Takaoka uses extraordinary detailing to paint a picture of Chloe’s dreams, specifically the nightmare she continuously has of a motorcycle crash. As Chloe continues with her life, she meets Kai, who teaches her how to surf. Her relationship with Kai develops over their surfing lessons, and Chloe’s feelings for him intensify. One day after a surfing lesson, Kai and Chloe plan to go out. This comes crashing down when Chloe faints. When Chloe returns to her everyday life, she realizes that Kai is no longer anywhere to be found. After no return to her phone calls and text messages, Chloe begins to accept the fact that Kai is no longer a part of her life. Pushing her pain away, Chloe works with Jane to find her heart donor. As the girls begin to look for Chloe’s donor, several obstacles arise, but after weeks of work and effort, Chloe finds the address of her donor. When she arrives at her donor’s house, memories and flashbacks from her nightmares come to her and the place seems more and more familiar as she gets closer. Chloe finally talks to the donor but encounters a massive shock. The donor was Kai. 

After this pivoting point in the novel, Chloe struggles to comprehend the previous months of her life and finds herself questioning if it was real. Takaoka brings in a unique twist of spirituality, and Chloe begins to accept her fate. The ending of this novel explores the ideas of fate and universes. Chloe believes that she and Kai were a part of two separate universes that collided for a few months but drifted away again. The idea of fate is profound and has much room for interpretation by the reader, another brilliant aspect of Takaoka’s novel.

The idea of fate is one that can be viewed differently by everyone, but I viewed fate as presented in this novel. Fate was played out when Chloe and Kai’s two worlds collided and drifted apart again. Chloe had her fate, which involved Kai dying so that she would receive his heart, but Kai’s fate involved never getting into that motorcycle crash, causing Chloe to wait on a heart or receive someone else’s heart. This is a stretched idea of fate, but my interpretation is that it is extremely realistic and plausible. Chloe and Kai’s fates met together for a brief period of time, but because their fates involve each other being in a different position, their worlds needed to drift apart because it was impossible for both of them to exist in the same space. This drifting apart caused the heartache the reader feels at the end of Takaoka’s novel, an emotion that is extremely present in Chloe as she realizes that she’ll never see Kai again. 

Everything I Thought I Knew is an exceptional novel with elements of love and heartbreak embedded wonderfully in Chloe’s story. The idea of new desires and thoughts that relate to Chloe’s donor’s life worked phenomenally for this novel in particular. The back-to-back events matched up perfectly with the story, and the ending completed it all. This novel is remarkable and a read everyone should have.