Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Review: The Next Together by Lauren James

The Next Together
Series: The Next Together #1
Pages: 356
Publisher: Walker Books
Release date: 3rd September 2015
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK

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Goodreads synopsis:
How many times can you lose the person you love?

Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.

Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace?

Maybe the next together will be different...

A powerful and epic debut novel for teenagers about time-travel, fate and the timelessness of first love. The Next Together is told through a mixture of regular prose, diary entries, letters, "original" historical documents, news reports and internet articles.

The Next Together is marketed as a sort of time-travel romance, but I’m not 100% sure if that’s entirely accurate. It is a romance, I suppose, in that there is a relationship between the two main characters, Matthew and Katherine, but I wouldn’t say that it’s the main focus of the book. Not really.
The relationship between the two characters seems to be a catalyst for other events throughout history. Each time the characters come together – be it in the 18th Century, or the 21st – they affect the events around them. The story seems to be more about what’s happening around the characters than about the relationship itself, especially as we know that the relationship will happen in one way or another each time they appear together in history.

As for time-travel, I don’t think this is necessarily accurate either. There is one moment in the book where you could perhaps call it time travel, but I think a more accurate description would be ‘reincarnation’. Although, if I’m totally honest, this may not be accurate either – there are hints that there is something much deeper going on that the characters don’t yet understand.
The characters appear again and again throughout history, but they don’t travel through time. They often die before their ‘objective’ is completed, and appear again in a later period.

Saying that, I do like the concept behind this reincarnation. As I said previously, there are hints at something much larger going on, and this mostly comes in the form of the dialogue that appears at the end of most of the chapters. Matthew and Katherine are referred to as ‘subjects’ and their ‘objective’ is mentioned a lot. However, we don’t yet know who or what is behind these messages, or why they are doing what they are. I’m hoping that all will be revealed in the second book.

The first thing that came to mind when I thought about reviewing this book is how easy it was to read. The sections are quite short, jumping from one time period to another quite quickly. This keeps the story moving at a really quick pace, and it almost feels as though you can watch the timelines develop simultaneously.
There are also sections written as post-it notes, emails and online news articles, which made the 2019 timeline even more interesting. It felt like a personal glimpse into the characters’ lives, much more so than the chapters written in simple prose. All of these things made the book incredibly easy and fun to read.
I do, however, think that some of these weren't really needed. For example, there are a few that deal with the couple's engagement, and how that happened. It didn't really add anything to the story, and it went on for a little longer than I think it needed to. However, the emails and notes about the problems the couple were facing were really interesting, and it was a good, immersive way to tell their side of the story.

I also found it interesting how Matthew and Katherine changed and evolved with each time period. They were clearly the same people, but they were, as you would expect, products of their time and upbringing. This altered their relationship in some expected and unexpected ways, but they always – inevitably – came together in the end.
I particularly enjoyed the chapters that took place during the Crimean War, with Katherine (known as Katy, or Kit) impersonating a boy in order to work in a Lord’s house, and then as a journalist’s assistant (the journalist being Matthew). I thought that was a really creative and cunning way for Lauren to have both characters involved in this historical event, and it’s also something quite different to the other chapters (there is only one part of the 18th Century period that is similar).

I also enjoyed how the timelines eventually begin to blur together, with little snippets from their ‘previous lives’ leaking into their dreams or memories. This again hints that there is something bigger going on behind the scenes and I’m really looking forward to discovering what that might be (if it’s revealed in the second book … which I really hope it is).

The one major problem I had with this story was that about two thirds of the way through, other time periods and historical events in which Katherine and Matthew have played a part are mentioned, but we don’t get to see them. One of these is at Bletchley Park, with Alan Turing at the Enigma Code.
While I know that there is a short story that focuses on this timeline, I’m still disappointed that it’s not a part of the main novel. I was really confused when it was mentioned so suddenly without having being hinted at previously.

The sequel to The Next Together, titled The Last Beginning, is released in the UK in October. I want to say more about it, to discuss where the story might lead, but that would be a huge spoiler for the ending of this book, so I won’t mention anything further. I will simply say that I am very much looking forward to seeing where the sequel will take me, and what things I might discover there.

This was a fun, light and highly creative YA science-fiction novel, with hidden depths yet to be discovered and plenty of adventure to be had. Although there were a few things that were a little confusing (that I haven’t mentioned because spoilers), it was an enjoyable and fast-paced read that has left me craving the sequel and ending to this daring debut duology (try saying that three times fast!).
Highly recommended.


Tamizh Selvan said...

What you said is so true, there is more things to explore about dreams but I'm not sure what are dreams that comes in the minds of people while living in this world.

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