Parallel by Lauren Miller

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Parallel by Lauren Miller

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Reviewed by Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Summary: Lauren Miller weaves an absorbing tale of parallel worlds, powerful decisions, friendship and romance.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: June 2013
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-1407135120

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Imagine waking up every day to find yourself in a new reality, an alternate future derived from a small variation in one of those what-if moments that populate every day of your life. Some of these moments are easy to identify: the moment you confirm your university choices, the moment you meet the person who'll become your best friend, the moment you tell someone you love them. Others are more subtle and harder to define, but they can have just as much an influence on your future. This is the reality of Abby Barnes, an eighteen year old whose life is constantly being warped and changed by the actions and decisions of a seventeen-year-old version of her from a parallel world.

It's massive, it's overwhelming, and it feels utterly impossible, but this is Abby's reality. A collision of parallel worlds has resulted in her life somehow fusing with that of a parallel version of her who is running a year behind. While her parallel is essentially the same person as she is, changes in her circumstances, her actions and her decisions, cascade and escalate to have significant effects on the eighteen-year-old Abby. The narrative alternates between the younger and older versions of her. While the younger parallel version is blissfully unaware of the situation, the older Abby wakes up each day with the memories of the actions of her parallel and the new reality that this has created. As she is forced to live out a life she didn't choose for herself, she has no choice but to live in the moment, taking each day as it comes. When she gets past the initial overwhelming shock of her situation, Abby begins to learn just how fragile fate is and comes to appreciate the value of her relationships. Only when she has her fate taken away from her hands, does she find herself genuinely considering what she wants to do with her life.

Parallel takes a risk with a high level concept, which isn't just used to set the scene, but is actually taken apart and analysed during the course of the story. All in all, it is a risk that pays off beautifully. The concept drew me in immediately, and it is approached and developed in a way that feels vivid and real, and had me daydreaming about how I would act and think in the same situation. In Abby you have a compelling character, someone who is likeable but also flawed and realistic enough that you really come to empathise with her. It is very satisfying to follow her journey of self-discovery, as she examines her identity and what defines her. Her character development feels natural and in line with the complex and twisting plot that the author has expertly put together.

The other characters also feel real and interesting. I particularly liked her best friend Caitlin, who is reliably kind and supportive as Abby confides in her, and the development of their friendship was, for me, the most compelling relationship in the story. The conflict between two love interests takes centre stage at the conclusion of the story. While Abby finds herself in a relationship with the intelligent and charismatic Michael who she meets at university, she is simultaneously forced to live out the unfolding of memories of the budding romance that her parallel develops with another boy, Josh. The romances between the characters are plotted and developed well, though both are a little lacking in spark and chemistry.

The author takes a risk with the ending of the novel, and I have a feeling that it will polarize readers. I found myself alternating between loving how audacious and powerful it was, and feeling a little annoyed at the nature of the twist and the suddenness of the conclusion. Nonetheless, whatever you feel about the conclusion, it doesn't change the fact that the novel is a thrill to read. I loved both the concept and how the author explores it in an intelligent and thoughtful manner. Believable, grounded characters balance powerful themes of identity and fate, and the writing is superb throughout, with the dialogue in particular being very strong.

If you like your parallel worlds and time travel stories, then Parallel has plenty of depth on the science fiction front, but it also explores some significant philosophical themes, while also functioning as an entertaining young adult romance. If you're a fan of all of the above, you're in for a real treat.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

A similarly fascinating concept is explored in Flip by Martyn Bedford, where a teenage boy literally finds himself in another person's body. Meanwhile, Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall is a stunning story of redemption based around the premise of a girl reliving the day she died over and over again. You might also want to try The Future of Us, another young adult novel examining themes of fate and destiny.

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