Today I'm reviewing two different parallel universe books:
by Cristin Bishara
Published by Walker Children's
on September 10, 2013
Connect with the author: website | Twitter.
Summary from Goodreads: If Ruby Wright could have her way, her dad would never have met and married her stepmother Willow, her best friend George would be more than a friend, and her mom would still be alive. Ruby knows wishes can't come true; some things just can't be undone. Then she discovers a tree in the middle of an Ohio cornfield with a wormhole to nine alternative realities. Suddenly, Ruby can access completely different realities, each containing variations of her life—if things had gone differently at key moments. The windshield wiper missing her mother’s throat…her big brother surviving his ill-fated birth…her father never having met Willow. Her ideal world—one with everything and everyone she wants most—could be within reach. But is there such a thing as a perfect world? What is Ruby willing to give up to find out?My take: I've been reading a bunch of multiverse books lately, but Relativity had some unique qualities that I really appreciated. While there are clearly some paranormal forces at work here -- like a magical tree that serves as a wormhole -- I liked the way that Relativity kept the story grounded in the emotional as a way to balance all the weird science. Ruby, the main character, lost her mom in a car accident when she was four years old, so when she discovers a way to explore alternate versions of her life, she finally has a chance to explore all those "what ifs" she's been harboring for eleven years.
Relativity is also the only YA parallel universe book I can recall that puts the multi in multiverse. There are nine different realities that Ruby discovers, each of them subtly different. Because most of them had the same characters, I did experience brief moments of confusion, but I liked the way the book captured multiverse theory, at least the way it was explained to me by someone really smart. (Me: so you're saying my life is constantly branching off into different realities? Lots and lots of them?)
I also liked Ruby a lot. She was a great character -- a girl who is interested in science. Because of this, she was able to understand what was happening to her -- and explain it to me. Readers who have found other YA multiverse books a little light on science will definitely find more of that here, as well as an author's note and a bibliography. There was a hint of romance in the book, but I appreciated the fact that the story was about Ruby and the loss of her mother without throwing in random kissing scenes. The ending was -- let's just say I'm noticing that these kind of books can be hard to end. Once a character is bopping around all these different worlds, do you just leave them to it? Do you take the Sliding Doors approach and (highlight blank space for movie spoiler) kill off one of the alternate versions of the character? Relativity seemed to pick a balanced approach. If you like contemporary YA, and are also loving the parallel universe trend, definitely try Relativity.
Next up, we have…..
by Gretchen McNeil
Published by Balzer + Bray
on September 17, 2013
Connect with the author: website | Facebook | Twitter.
Summary from Goodreads: Josie Byrne's life is spiraling out of control. Her parents are divorcing, her boyfriend Nick has grown distant, and her physics teacher has it in for her. When she's betrayed by the two people she trusts most, Josie thinks things can't get worse. Until she starts having dreams about a girl named Jo. Every night at the same time—3:59 a.m.My take: 3:59 takes the parallel universe concept and uses it to create a creepy thriller. At first, there are a whole lot of different plot elements to sort out in this book -- Josie's parents' divorce, her mother's obsession with some research for work, Josie's relationship problems with her boyfriend, her science project, the mysterious deaths of students at Josie's school, her weird nightmares, and a mysterious mirror. But after a few chapters, Josie figures out that the mirror is a portal, and that the other girl is her doppelgänger. As the blurb indicates, they swap places, and Josie realizes that Jo, her doppelgänger, is kind of … evil.
Jo's life is everything Josie wants: she's popular, her parents are happily married, and Nick adores her. It all seems real, but they're just dreams, right? Josie thinks so, until she wakes one night to a shadowy image of herself in the bedroom mirror. Josie and Jo realize that they are doppelgängers living in parallel universes that overlap every twelve hours at exactly 3:59. Fascinated by Jo's perfect world, Josie jumps at the chance to jump through the portal and switch places for a day. But Jo’s world is far from perfect. Not only is Nick not Jo's boyfriend, he hates her. Jo's mom is missing, possibly insane. And at night, shadowy creatures feed on human flesh. By the end of the day, Josie is desperate to return to her own life. But there’s a problem: Jo has sealed the portal, trapping Josie in this dangerous world. Can she figure out a way home before it’s too late?
The story then takes on an action-adventure kind of vibe, as Josie tries to get back to her old life while convincing to the people in her new life that she's not the evil Jo. Easier said than done! As with the other Gretchen McNeil books that I've read, 3:59 is more a plot-driven story than a character-driven one. There is a hint of romance, but I was happy that 3:59 didn't do the whole "different boy in each universe," making a multi-dimensional love triangle. The book's ending really surprised me, but I liked that. And there does seem to be some real science woven in here, though with my limited physics knowledge and without any kind of author's note it's hard to say what's possible and what's fictionalized.