Author: Lauren Miller
Genre: Sci-Fi, Romance, YA contemporary
Publication Date: May 14, 2013 (HarperTeen – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC/Edelweiss Review Copy
Summary: Abby Barnes had a plan. The Plan. She’d go to Northwestern, major in journalism, and land a job at a national newspaper, all before she turned twenty-two. But one tiny choice—taking a drama class her senior year of high school—changed all that. Now, on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, Abby is stuck on a Hollywood movie set, miles from where she wants to be, wishing she could rewind her life. The next morning, she’s in a dorm room at Yale, with no memory of how she got there. Overnight, it’s as if her past has been rewritten.
With the help of Caitlin, her science-savvy BFF, Abby discovers that this new reality is the result of a cosmic collision of parallel universes that has Abby living an alternate version of her life. And not only that: Abby’s life changes every time her parallel self makes a new choice. Meanwhile, her parallel is living out Abby’s senior year of high school and falling for someone Abby’s never even met.
As she struggles to navigate her ever-shifting existence, forced to live out the consequences of a path she didn’t choose, Abby must let go of the Plan and learn to focus on the present, without losing sight of who she is, the boy who might just be her soul mate, and the destiny that’s finally within reach.
☆: 4/5 stars – a great new addition to the YA multiverse canon, but its focus seemed way too tilted in one direction.
Review: “Parallel” is yet another book to join the multiverse/M-Theory canon that’s suddenly exploding within YA lately, and I couldn’t be happier. While the science is semi-solid, I think girls (especially those really into the romance genre) will really dig this one, as it has an usually sharp focus on romance between all of the pasts, presents, and futures presented to the MC in the book. I wasn’t too wild about that, but at the same time, it was a good read that kept the pages turning. If you’re looking for a gentler book to ease you into the whole magical world of the M-Theory/multiverse genre, “Parallel” might be a good place to start.
What was really good: the continual tension of Abby’s memories being “overwritten” by her Parallel. This was my favorite part of the plot and of the book – Miller knows how to really keep us on our toes by asking that quiet little question each time Abby falls asleep – where will she be next? How will she cope? How much will things have changed when she wakes up? There’s a LOT of worldbuilding that goes on with each “movement” of memories from Parallel to Parallel, and even though I think the one of the three main “home bases” (to borrow a term from Julie Cross’ “Tempest” series) – Yale, LA, and home – LA needed the most worldbuilding, as we’re not there very much, and as the book progresses, we’re getting further and further away from it and going further toward the other two home bases – Yale and home – throughout the book. However, the worldbuilding that does go on? It’s extremely well done for a debut. And combine the plot and the worldbuilding? It boosted my initial 3.5 stars to 4 just for the sheer entertainment factor alone.
What needed to be more explained: the science. The idea of two parallel universes colliding is Walter Bishop from “Fringe”-calibur science, but we really don’t get a very good, solid explanation aside from that of things getting “entangled”, the result of which is people get earthquakes around the world and some wake up with headaches. Or in Abby’s case, two sets of memories from one day. I wanted more on how the science worked a little more in detail, because what we were given, while adequate enough for those to understand just getting their feet wet in quantum physics, I feel like “Unraveling” did it better with the science-y bits.
What I thought was a little too heavy handed: the romance. It feels like there’s a love triangle (or two) in there somewhere, but since Abby’s present, past, and future are changing so much, it’s a little hard to really tell. I feel like this book was tilted way too much in the romance direction for my taste – even bringing up the question of soulmates (really?) as apart of the whole Dr. Mann’s “cosmic equation” (which was a really interesting idea in general) just felt a little too over the top for me. That being said, all of the romance is truncated by Abby and her Parallel’s continually changing everything, so what we do get to see isn’t very developed until the very end, where things start to really solidify for both Parallels. This was incredibly maddening to me, because it felt a bit on the half-assed side until the end. I mean, why develop these relationships if they’re just going to change, right? That’s the feeling I got on Miller’s behalf, though I really hope I’m wrong.
Generally, I’d say the book is well-written in the other technical areas. The MC and her main cast are solid despite all of the continual changes going on, and I loved that her BFF called her out on being self-absorbed – which is completely the case. The fringe-area main cast (more minor characters) are a bit slow to develop, but once they do, things start really making sense and feel complete. I’d say the character building aside from Abby and Caitlin is the slowest to develop, but it does eventually get there, if you’re patient enough. And it’s adequate enough to go on for all of these changes that keep happening. What could have been cut: the slut shaming. Really. I’m getting pretty tired of it within YA as whole, and “Parallel” sadly was no exception to the rule there.
Final verdict? If you’re looking for a kinder, gentler multiverse book to introduce you to the genre, or you just don’t feel like dealing with hard science, “Parallel” is a good book with which to wet those feet of yours. For the veterans of this growing sub-genre, it may not be as fun for you, especially if you’re not quite into the romance genre as a whole. Still, I enjoyed it, and if there’s a sequel, you can bet I’m reading it. “Parallel” is out today from HarperTeen in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance – it’s definitely a fun read, regardless of where you stand with the multiverse genre or YA as a whole.