Many Worlds #1
Young Adult/Parallel Worlds
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
You. Your best friend. Every person you know.
Many worlds. Many lives--infinite possibilities.
Welcome to the multiverse.
Sixteen-year-old Sasha Lawson has only ever known one small, ordinary life. When she was young, she loved her grandfather's stories of parallel worlds inhabited by girls who looked like her but led totally different lives. Sasha never believed such worlds were real--until now, when she finds herself thrust into one against her will.
To prevent imminent war, Sasha must slip into the life of an alternate version of herself, a princess who has vanished on the eve of her arranged marriage. If Sasha succeeds in fooling everyone, she will be returned home; if she fails, she'll be trapped in another girl's life forever. As time runs out, Sasha finds herself torn between two worlds, two lives, and two young men vying for her love--one who knows her secret, and one who thinks she's someone she's not.
Tandem is not a story that has a wholly unique premise; instead by all appearances it's but one more in a growing group to embrace the parallel universes trend in YA fiction, complete with a romance in the form of a triangle to ensure tension and drama run high. What we soon discover after the first several chapters though is that the blurb doesn't come close to doing the story justice, and Sasha's tale stands out as memorable – a bright blinding light amidst the din – leaving the familiar aspects to which the blurb allludes at the door. While the world building doesn't necessarily wow us nor does the concept of analogs (doubles) mesmerize us with its creativity, Ms. Jarzab bleeds newness into a familiar setup with her characters, Sasha and Thomas yanking us as forcefully into their story as they themselves are yanked through the tandem and into the middle of a war.
Tandem requires a slight adjustment period in the beginning, the format throwing us off ever-so-slightly as we're bounced from Sasha's first-person perspective to short chapters detailing Thomas's actions in third-person to brief snippets of the real Julianna and her current predicament. Majority of our time is spent with Sasha however, and we quickly see how valuable our brief detours with Thomas and Julianna are in deciphering the political complexities of Sasha's new world. Though we suspect certain things before they're revealed to us in truth, it's clear to us that identifying all the players complicit in both Julianna's absence and Sasha's presence in the United Commonwealth of Columbia is only a single thread of a much larger web, one we see glistening out of the corner of our eyes as we focus straight ahead only to have it disappear when we turn our heads in an effort analyze it more closely.
Though the synopsis suggests a love triangle between Sasha, Thomas, and Prince Callum (who we learn early on is betrothed to Julianna as part of an attempted peace agreement), he doesn't come into play until midway through the story, and by then Sasha's heart – a bit battered and bruised – belongs only to Thomas. She doesn't play games or waffle between the two of them, and though Callum is upfront about his desire for their marriage to be real and not a mere facade to appease their families, the only real drama created by his presence is the guilt Sasha feels about having to play her role. Her relationship with Thomas is one full of just enough hurt and betrayal to have lumps take up permanent residence in our throats, but the two of them are never frustratingly dramatic, their pain genuine and believable even as the weight of their situation starts to crush us into so much dust.
We're left with things far from concluded, the unrest in Julianna's world at an all time high just as we're forced back to our own reality, but though we have lingering questions, they're not the kind that haunt us and drag our overall enjoyment down the more we think about them. Tandem is full of twists and turns but yet is not altogether unpredictable, rather it feels as though we've traveled a highlighted portion of a maze, granted a false sense of comfort thanks to the things we're allowed to uncover seemingly on our own, but out there off the beaten path we've traveled in this first book lie all the dark offshoots we've yet to see, and I for one can't wait to discover where they lead in book two.
This book was given to me by the publisher at BEA free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.