Author: Ingrid Jonach
Genre: Multiverse/Alternate Universe, Sci-Fi, YA contemporary
Publication Date: September 3, 2013 (Strange Chemistry – North America)
Source: NetGalley Review Copy/Publisher-provided ARC
Synopsis: Looking back, I wonder if I had an inkling that my life was about to go from ordinary to extraordinary.
When sixteen-year-old Lillie Hart meets the gorgeous and mysterious Tom Windsor-Smith for the first time, it’s like fireworks — for her, anyway. Tom looks as if he would be more interested in watching paint dry; as if he is bored by her and by her small Nebraskan town in general.
But as Lillie begins to break down the walls of his seemingly impenetrable exterior, she starts to suspect that he holds the answers to her reoccurring nightmares and to the impossible memories which keep bubbling to the surface of her mind — memories of the two of them, together and in love.
When she at last learns the truth about their connection, Lillie discovers that Tom has been hiding an earth-shattering secret; a secret that is bigger — and much more terrifying and beautiful — than the both of them. She also discovers that once you finally understand that the world is round, there is no way to make it flat again.
☆: 3.5/5 stars – a great new multiverse book to add to the YA canon!
Review: Yet another multiverse book to add to the YA canon! And it’s pretty great. There are some things that I felt held the book back (hopefully these were edited out, as I read an ARC version), but otherwise, Jonach has put together a relatively suspenseful little book here. I think those just dipping their toes into the multiverse genre pool will do well to start with “When the World Was Flat”.
My biggest issue with the book: Several. Pace was one of them, as was the “Rule of Repetition” (though that starts to make sense later in the book, I’ll admit), and generally, I wanted to see more of the multiverse that Tom and Lillie than we got to see. I feel like that was the biggest hang-up of all – Tom talks Lillie through his/their trips through the multiverse to the audience, but we don’t really see much aside from Fourth Dimension and the original First Dimension on Tom’s side of things. I found that quite frustrating, and since I’m all about showing instead of telling, it brought down my enjoyment of the book quite a bit.
The pace was a bit uneven in places – quick for long periods of time within the story, then all of a sudden, bam! An almost full stop. While I think Jonach was trying to get us to reflect on how Lillie and Tom were starting to really connect with each other, and how that connection was creating ripples and disturbing everything and everyone around them. While this works great as a standalone, I can also see enough material for a sequel as well (or a prequel – preferably that), and I wanted more on Tom and his multiverse misadventures (as well as more on the Circle), not just Tom and this Lillie starting to recognize each other. More expansion into his character would have been great, since we get to know the rest of the main cast so well.
However, I’ll definitely say that Jonach’s strongest point was her characters. Lillie, Sylv, Jo, Deb, and the rest were very strongly and sturdily constructed. I felt like (with the exception of Tom), we got a very strong main cast, where they felt very 3D and very real. The one caveat here was Tom – until he starts connecting with Lillie (more on that later in terms of romance), he feels very much like the stereotypical new boy in a YA book. He feels a bit flat, and though I think Jonach’s goal was to make him mysterious, as I’ve stated previously, I wanted more. Even when we do get more of his backstory (which help builds the world), I still feel like he only made it to 2.5D out of 3D in terms of realism in a character, and I really hope that was fixed in the final version. But otherwise? I loved these characters, even with Lillie’s repetition tic, and I didn’t want to leave them when the book ended.
The world: much like Tom as a character, I felt like it needed work. Green Grove felt flat, and while we got more through the characters sharing their backstories and such (as well as Lillie’s strange dreams), it still didn’t quite feel real, and it felt like something that was propping up the characters. The most real the world felt was during Tom and Lillie’s flashbacks of the Evacuation – and that’s where Jonach’s sensory language really came to life. The rest of the time, it needed a bit of work. I didn’t appreciate the slut shaming, though, that went on with Lillie before she got together with Tom, though, so I deducted points for that.
The romance: Admittedly (even by Lillie herself), there’s a bit of instalove going on on Tom’s part, but Lillie really works and figures out that she does want to be with him. Which was nice to see. I love when you have two characters who snark and fight and then, finally after everything, get together. But when Tom gives his Big Reveal about the First Dimension, even Lillie admits it’s pretty much instalove on his part. Which was refreshing! I loved that. I love it when a character (and behind her, the author) can be honest enough to admit that. It’s something very rare in YA, and it was great to see.
Final verdict? This one you may have to stick with awhile, guys, to really feel the flow and latch onto the story. But because the characters are so strong, I think that many that are just getting into the YA multiverse genre will dig it. “When the World Was Flat” is in stores now in North America and the UK from Strange Chemistry, so be sure and check it out when you get the chance! And be sure and check out the blog in October for a Q and A with the author for the blog tour!