Friday, December 27, 2013

Reviews on a Theme: The Multiverse

This year on the YA scene there was a mini-boom of multiverse books. These came in two main types: 1) multiverse novels in which characters travel to actual physical universes other than ours a la the the TV show SLIDERS and 2) multiverse novels in which the main character experiences diverse versions of her own life a la the movie SLIDING DOORS.

Before reading on, you should be aware that for some of these books, their very appearance on the list constitutes a spoiler.

I read four novels this year where the characters travel to other dimensions. In each case there was a physical portal or object that allowed movement between two or more worlds. Also, there is at least one character who is able to explain the science behind what's going on in logical terms.

In TANDEM by Anna Jarzab, Sasha has long had dreams of another world in which she is a princess. On prom night, she's forced to go there by her date (who turns out to be her doppelganger's bodyguard) in order to impersonate the runaway princess. A "anchor"(which looks like a silver bracelet) keeps her in this strange new world where the US is split and war is imminent. TANDEM is full of intrigue and fun parallel Earth worldbuilding in which a simple potato might be your undoing. (FTC disclosure: Borrowed)

In 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil it's a mirror that shows Josie a one minute long glimpse (twice a day at 3:59 am and pm) into a world where her doppelganger, Jo, seems to have a much better life than she does. When Jo offers to trade for a day, Josie agrees, hoping to spend just a little more time with her ex-boyfriend Nick and parents who aren't going through a messy divorce. But once in the parallel universe, Josie discovers Jo's world is far from perfect and that Jo has trapped her there.
Thanks to Josie's aptitude for science, she's able to work out a plan to help her get back to her own world - before she's ripped apart by monsters that only come out at night. Along the way there are some awesome reveals and genuine scares though some may be put off by the insta-romance and a climax that relies on supposedly smart people doing stupid (and illegal) things. (FTC disclosure: Unsolicited review copy)

In RELATIVITY by Cristin Bishara, Ruby is unhappy in her own reality and longs to know the mother who died when Ruby was young. When Ruby enters a magical oak tree, she discovers it hides a wormhole that allows her to visit nine parallel worlds and she decides to explore each until she finds the perfect one. The concept and the themes explored (making the best of what you have, being careful what you wish for, the unpredictability of the universe) are top-notch. Ruby is intelligent and resourceful on her journey and the various scenarios she encounters are well drawn. This short novel aims to find a satisfying balance between exploring a meaningful breadth of worlds and doing so with true depth, and though it doesn't quite attain the latter, it is, nevertheless, a bold and impressive work. (FTC disclosure: Requested review copy from publisher)

In UNDERCURRENT by Paul Blackwell, Callum goes over a waterfall in his town and ends up in an alternate version of his world where one decision changed everything. It takes Callum most of the book to figure out that this is case, but the reader knows much, much earlier. Callum would rather believe he's the one that's gone crazy, because the existence of a multiverse is even crazier, isn't it? Blackwell has crafted a creepy thriller which explores how choices shape identity - sometimes in major ways. (FTC disclosure: Netgalley)

Other books to check out in this category:
THROUGH TO YOU by Emily Hainsworth
UNRAVELLING by Elizabeth Norris
OTHERBOUND by Corinne Duyvis - coming 2014

I read three novels this year in which the main character lives out split realities. In each, the split realities diverge from a choice the character makes.

In PARALLEL by Lauren Miller, Abby has a grand plan, but due to the collision of parallel universes, she finds herself living out a reality she didn't choose for herself. Her split path hinges on something minor - what class she takes in school. I found PARALLEL to be more of a "head" book than a "heart" book. I absolutely loved the symmetry of the dueling realities and the clever way everything fit together. My inner nerd was totally into the logical sounding scientific theories explaining what was going on, and Abby's character arc is stellar. I would have liked to feel more of Abby's love for Josh + Michael though. Intellectually, I understood why she fell for them, but their connections failed to move me emotionally. Despite that, I found this to be an immersive and impressive novel with great ruminations on living in the moment and accepting that you can't plan every little thing about your life. (FTC disclosure: Unsolicited review copy)

In PIVOT POINT by Kasie West, Addie has the power of "searching", that is, she can see the results of a choice before she makes it so that she can make the most informed decision. When her parents announce they will divorce and her father will move to another town, Addie "lives" through both choosing to stay with her mother and leaving with her father. In both "lives" she ends up dating a boy and soon it becomes clear which she prefers, but what if staying with the boy she loves means the death of someone else she loves? By adding people with superpowers, PIVOT POINT adds a fresh twist to the split realities concept. Plus, there's a high stakes murder mystery and lots of witty dialogue. The ending let me down a bit because I wasn't aware there's a sequel coming.  (FTC disclosure: Unsolicited review copy)

In JUST LIKE FATE by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young, Caroline can either stay at her dying grandmother's bedside or she can go to a party. What she chooses will determine her fate. I was solidly team “Stay” throughout the entire novel. Caroline’s arc here felt very authentic, and I admired her choice to remain by her dying grandmother’s bedside. Joel, Simone and Natalie were adequately fleshed out. I really wasn’t crazy about the “Go” Caroline, and the whole escape plotline including the new school/mean girl subplot never endeared her to me. But,  I LOVED the way everything came together and the philosophical nature of the ending. (FTC disclosure: Netgalley)

Other books to check out in this category:
THE POST BIRTHDAY WORLD by Lionel Shriver (adult)
MY REAL CHILDREN by Jo Walton (adult) - coming 2014

Any other multiverse novels you'd recommend? Let me know in the comments!


E.C. Myers said...

I love these kinds of stories! The SHIFT trilogy by Kim Curran is terrific, with a variation on this theme: Shifters can go back and change past decisions, which results in a different present reality. The first two books, SHIFT and CONTROL, are out now, with DELETE coming in August. (See what she did there?)

Lenore Appelhans said...

What cool titles! Will definitely check them out Thanks Eugene :)