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?
- 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.
- 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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