We Contain Multitudes

We Contain Multitudes

Book - 2019
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As penpals for a high school English assignment, poetry-loving sophomore Jonathan and popular-athlete senior Adam explore their growing relationship through a series of letters.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Teen, 2019.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780735264212
Characteristics: 375 pages ; 22 cm


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Aug 04, 2020

At first, I loved the fact that this book is epistolary until Kurl and Jo became more involved. I would rather read from their perspective see what was happening in their heads while they were together, not just their recollection of the time. The synopsis of this book sounds like one giant trope of the jock falls that in love with the nerd but isn’t, the characters have so much more depth. We Contain Multitudes deals with some heavy concepts such as Jo constantly being bullied for various reasons, Kurl having anger issues as a result of his terrible home life. By the end of the book, it gets so much heavier, for example, Jo’s sister Shayana being a terrible person who basically ruins the lives of most of the characters and is the worst character et cetera. This book isn’t a happy book, nor a sad one. It’s a great example of how one thing we do can hurt each other. I believe the ending is supposed to be hopeful, but I don’t believe that the problems that were thrown at them in the last few letters were well resolved not giving me proper closer. 3.5/5 stars
@GreenUnoReverseCard of the Hamilton Public Library Teen Review Board

Words cannot describe how I felt when reading this book. From the moment I read the first few pages to the moment I closed the book entirely, I couldn’t contain how remarkable and exquisite this storyline had been. At first, I didn’t believe having the novel formatted where the two main characters, Kurl and Jo, wrote letters to one another as part of an English assignment would encapture the plot and personality of the characters, but I was proven wrong. The way writing has brought Kurl and Jo together to the point where they can share anything they feel and provide insight to their family lives and the troubles each individual is facing shows just how love can work. Two completely opposite characters end up blending their lives together that no matter what problems they face in their relationship, they still manage to identify reasons to still be with each other, even if a family member is part of the reason why they separated in the first place. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would recommend this book to anyone over the age of 13 due to some of its content. 4/5
@booklover327 of the Teen Review Board at the Hamilton Public Library

Jul 04, 2020

My goodness, I would definitely rate this five stars if this was not a sexual relationship between a 15 year old and an 18 year old. It is written so eloquently that I felt hexed into reading this book! (I read this in one go. 6 hours.)

So, TW for that relationship, as well as illegal drug usage.

*Spoiler Zone-ish, I tried to evade spoilers in my review*
To continue from what I was saying previously- But alas, the fact is that teenagers don't write with the same mastership of poetic english as these two teenagers do. To give the benefit of the doubt, Basket Case Jon, is obsessed with poetry all throughout the book, while Jock Adam slowly becomes more and more consumed with the poetry that Jon introduces him to. But even then, I don't really believe a teenager would write things similar to what Adam was writing or would even properly comprehend the poetry Jon would send to him.

To add to my distaste towards this book, there are so many conflict points with little explanation. I'm mostly referring to the event between Adam and Jon's sister at that one party. If Adam loved Jon so much and was absolutely heartbroken, why? Why would you do that? It's so clear that Adam is heads OVER heels for Jon. So, that never made sense to me.

I also felt almost disconnected from the scenes taking place. The author describes scenes by having them reiterate them in their letters. She gives a reason for doing so, but who even does that? Who fully reiterates real life events? I feel like if she switched between letters and an POV, I'd feel more intertwined with the story.

Also, I'm gonna mention this again, sexual relationship between a 15 year old and 18 year old. Also, really weird sexual relationship between a 15 year old and 18 year old. Kind of grossed me out.


I'm giving this a semi decent rating because of how beautiful the writing was. I also found the character development, especially of Adam, absolutely amazing! That's it though. The rest of the book and the event made me a little uncomfortable.

P.S: you'll find better reviews on goodreads.

Nov 30, 2019

It was really hard to get on board with the whole letter writing thing. I really think the story would have benefitted from being taken out into the real world, but after a while you just kind of accept the redundancy of recounting every detail in a letter of something that both parties experienced simultaneously. The poetry of the letters was excellent, the romance was super raw and the character development over time was very meaningful. The emphasis on Walt Whittman was a little overbearing, as someone who has no idea who that is, though the author does a good job at explaining so you aren't kept out of the loop. I guess she is an english prof. so she had to sneak in some of that. All and all, the book was hard to get into but it was definitely worth it in the long run.

May 29, 2019

One of the best books I've read in a long time. Told completely through letters, you get to see these to boys become friends and then more through their correspondence with each other over the course of a year. You also get to see what has made them the way they are, in all of their imperfections.


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Jul 04, 2020

"The whole time the band played I kept sneaking looks at you, Jo, and thinking: How could I be unhappy? I mean how could anybody be unhappy? And also: How is anybody supposed to hide happiness like this?" - Adam Kurlansky

Jul 04, 2020

"You undid me. That's all I'm trying to report in this letter. You undid me, Kurl, in more ways than one." - Jonathan Hopkirk

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Jul 04, 2020

orliande thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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