future

Review: The Next Together

The Next Together
The Next Together by Lauren James

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m going to warn you now: I have a lot of feelings about The Next Together. I’ve spent the entire weekend talking about it (and for half of that I was abroad, alone).

First off, the cover. I’m not a huge, huge fan, but I think it works. It’s a really good advertisement for the book – it’s original, interesting and not-your-typical-romance novel.

The Next Together follows the story of Katherine and Matthew, a couple who are destined to be together but haven’t quite made it there yet. They have been reincarnated through the ages, first as an aristocrat and a servant in 1745 who fall in love whilst preparing for a siege on Carlisle by the Scottish, then as a war correspondent for The Times (Matthew) and his assistant (Katherine, this time in drag). We then follow them in 2019 as research scientists through a series of emails, letters and notes on the fridge, and in 2039, as chemistry students at the University of Nottingham.

I really liked the way this book is set out – it flits between the time-streams every couple of pages, resulting in short chapters and even shorter sub-chapters. This made the book really easy to read, and I zoomed through it in a couple of days.

The Next Together is a really original book for the YA market both in plot and format – the emails and newspaper entries reminded me a lot of Illuminae, but I felt that this way of conveying information was much more successful here (because there was a lot less of it, and the information was a lot more interesting). I also really appreciated that science was featured in the book – because I’m a scientist – and it was really clever to combine both a historical novel and a futuristic sci-fi novel into one.

So why isn’t this book getting 5 stars?

  1. I didn’t really click with the characters. This may just be me. I think an issue with combining four novels into one, is that each character doesn’t get enough screen-time. Some of the romances felt rushed, very sudden and unexpected, and I didn’t quite feel a slow build-up of feelings over time that would have been more believable. Would it really be feasible to devote enough screen-time to each character? No, not really, unless you want a 1600-page book.
  2. The ending. Near the end, the plot gets very confusing (there’s time travel involved) and – this is the crucial bit for me – there’s no real resolution. There’s a hint at a resolution. I was hoping for something really clever, maybe even a bit scientific – I really, really wanted a satisfying ending. The ending feels very rushed, but I will say this – I didn’t see the plot twist coming, and although it feels a little out of place, it does make sense.

I would have rated this book a lot higher if it had been a stand-alone novel – it felt like a stand-alone, and then it was left on a cliff-hanger. I want more stand-alone novels in YA – I don’t want to commit to reading an entire 13-book series every time I pick up a new book.

So would I recommend The Next Together? Yes, because I’m sure other people have clicked with this novel a lot better than I did. It’s original, funny and an easy-read – just expect to have to need to read the next book once you’ve finished.

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Annalise x

Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought The Handmaid’s Tale months ago, and promptly left it unread for months before picking it up on the train home during Easter break. I then lost it. I spent a whole term wondering where i’d left it – on the train, at home, at university – before I found it underneath my bed (at home). Still, it went unread until I was compiling my reading list for my holiday, and so it finally got the love and attention it deserves, 4900ft up a mountain in the French Alps.

It was worth the wait.

Offred is a handmaid in the republic of Gilead. Her role is to go and buy groceries for the Commander’s household, and to bear his children. If she can’t bear children, she is worthless. She remembers the time before Gilead, when she had a husband, a daughter, a job, and knowledge, but that has all been taken away from her. The extreme Christian Right have taken over, and with it, Offred has lost her freedom, her name, and her family.

Apparently this book is like marmite – some people love it and some people hate it. I love it. It’s difficult to write a review about a book that you love.

First off, let me just mention that the writing style is a little different, and that initially put me off reading the book. It took a few chapters to get into the flow of the words, and into the world itself.

The novel is speculative fiction at its finest (that is, a situation that could theoretically happen on Earth in this day and age, rather than some crazy sci-fi alien war with zombies and dragons). There’s nothing in this novel which is completely unbelievable – which is what makes the story so compelling, the overall feeling that this could very well be reality.

Why should you read this book? If you, like me, love dystopian novels, or at least have read a few of the more popular ones, this is a good source of inspiration. It almost certainly has inspired and influenced some more modern dystopian novels. It’s one of the more classic dystopians, and that alone should push it onto your reading list. It’s also a great feminist novel, and really gets you thinking about the current state of society, and its treatment of women (which is more than relevant today).

After reading this novel, I think i’ll have a more informed view of today’s YA feminist literature, and i’ll be sure to add more Margaret Atwood novels to my TBR list.

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