We Didn’t Ask for This
Published April 7, 2020
About We Didn’t Ask for This
Every year, lock-in night changes lives. This year, it might just change the world.
Central International School’s annual lock-in is legendary — and for six students, this year’s lock-in is the answer to their dreams. The chance to finally win the contest. Kiss the guy. Make a friend. Become the star of a story that will be passed down from student to student for years to come.
But then a group of students, led by Marisa Cuevas, stage an eco-protest and chain themselves to the doors, vowing to keep everyone trapped inside until their list of demands is met. While some students rally to the cause, others are devastated as they watch their plans fall apart. And Marisa, once so certain of her goals, must now decide just how far she’ll go to attain them.
It’s kind of a crazy time to read a book about being locked in, right? I didn’t think about that right away, but being under stay-at-home orders as I read WE DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS was definitely interesting– not the same by any means, but interesting.
The style the book is written in is really different from most of the books I read. It’s got an omniscient view that kind of pans through the crowd a lot of the time and then will zoom into one character for a moment and give details about what they’re thinking or experiencing or show a snippet from their past.
Normally this isn’t a writing style that I prefer, but I think it really worked for this story because it creates this big crowd feel but also personalizes so many of the characters and shows so many different points of view and treats them all as equals.
I found it really easy to like lots of the characters, too. Amira and Marisa were my favorites, but I loved Celeste and Kenji and Peejay, too. It took me a little while to get the feel for the community in which the story takes place– it’s an international school, but I kept basically picturing a very diverse American school, which isn’t the same thing at all! But once I recognized that distinction and changed how I was picturing things, I felt like I got it more. Hopefully that makes sense?
On the whole, I really enjoyed reading WE DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS. It’s the first book by Adi Alsaid that I’ve read, but I’ve wanted to read his books for a while now. I really want to check out the others.
If you liked the big cast with interconnected relationships in THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by Marieke Nijkamp, I think you’ll also like WE DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS.
You’ll find content notes below, and also a Q&A with author Adi Alsaid. Be sure to check it out!
Recommended for Ages 12 up.
WE DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS has a very diverse cast of characters, including LGBTQ+, Latinx, black, and Muslim characters.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used very infrequently. (Only a few instances in the whole book.)
Lots of references to attraction or infatuation. One brief mention of a couple who take their clothes off in front of each other. References to kissing and making out.
Some references to Muslim faith and traditions.
Students get angry at one point and start throwing things at Marisa, injuring her.
Instances of teens drinking alcohol.
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog. I received a free copy of WE DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS in exchange for my honest review.
Q&A with Author Adi Alsaid
Q: What inspired you to write this book?
A: I’ve been wanting to write a book that felt like my favorite book, Bel Canto, for a while now. So the very initial inspiration was a group of characters all stuck in the same place for an extended period of time. Then, to make it feel more YA, I thought of The Breakfast Club, but instead of cliques, just bring people with different passions together. Then, because of my increasing awareness over the last few years about environmental issues, combined with the fact that I was traveling and seeing those issues play out around the world, I brought in the fight for climate change.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about Marisa Cuevas?
A: Her willingness to fight for what she believes in.
Q: I love the juxtaposition of a lock-in against a political protest. What was the most challenging part of threading those two very different pieces together?
A: Honestly, it was the logistics of actually keeping the students locked in. The political protest wouldn’t work without it, nor would the plot. So I had to find a whole lot of justifications that felt reasonable within the story. Other than that, one of my goals was to show, embodied in different characters, all the ways people react to political protests, and to make them feel like actual people, not just symbols.
Q: What do you most hope that readers take away from the story?
A: Getting others to care about what you care about is hard, but you’re allowed to try, and it’s possible to succeed.
Q: Is there a character that you found challenging to write? Why?
A: All my characters come easily to me. The challenge is working to get them right in revisions. Jordi Marcos, a sort of villain in the story, was one that was hard to get right, in order to make his actions feel justified. I also have a queer Muslim character in Amira, and I had to work—and had the fortune of being guided by a great sensitivity reader—to not make her representation be harmful.
Q: How does a typical writing day look like for you?
A: Assuming this means not in the time of COVID-19. I wake up and go straight to a coffee shop, where I work/avoid looking at my phone for about 3 hours or so. Then I usually have lunch, take a break by watching a movie, running errands, or something in that vein. Then another work session in the afternoon or late evening at another coffee shop or perhaps a bar, followed by cooking dinner. During deadline times there’s also usually a late night session at home.
Q: What are your current reading?
A: I’m about to finish The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy, listening to The Art of Logic in an Illogical World by Eugenia Chang, and my next read will probably be Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova.
Q: Is there something secret you can share with us about anything in the book or your experience writing it?
A: I don’t know about secret, but I’ll say that I had the unique experience of traveling the world while writing it. So, many of its words were written in the communal areas of hostels, on airplanes, trains, on an island in Fiji, and in many, many coffee shops.