06 March 2013

Book Review: Parallel by Lauren Miller

Book tagline: Your path changes. Your destiny doesn't.  

I picked up a copy of Lauren Miller's new YA novel, Parallel, as my airplane read on the way to Kansas City last week.  I "test-drove" the first two chapters at home just to make sure it was readable and away I went.  I can't recall precisely what it was that drew me to this book many weeks ago, other than I was hoping for a quick read and a disposable one, as it was my plan to leave the book behind in my hotel room to make room for the dozens more I would be picking up at Winter Institute.  But something in this book stayed with me and I brought it back home with me to review.

Because this book is a little tricky to summarize, I'll commandeer the publisher's promo copy: 
Abby Barnes had a plan. Get into a great college, major in journalism, and land her dream job at a major newspaper. But on the eve of her 18th birthday, she's stuck on a Hollywood movie set instead, wishing she could rewind her life. But the next morning, she’s in a dorm room at Yale, with no memory of how she got there. A collision of parallel worlds has left Abby living a new reality every time her younger parallel self makes a new decision. Forced to live out the consequences of a path she didn't choose, Abby must let go on her plans for the future and learn to focus on the present, without losing sight of who she is, the boy who might just be her soul mate, and the destiny that’s finally in reach. 
I'm probably dating myself, but this book reminded strongly of the movie Sliding Doors, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, in which the main character's life splits into two futures for the audience: what would have happened if Gwyneth's character had reached the subway train in time on a particular day and what would have happened if she hadn't. The movie hints that the end result would have been the same, at least in terms of her career and relationship, but one path was filled with more heartache and trouble than the other. 
Fact, they should be called The Fetals.
With Abby, it comes down to colliding parallel worlds.  [Cue INXS's Two Worlds Collided].  One day in her senior year in high school there is an earthquake that rocks the entire world, not just her immediate area of Atlanta, GA. Turns out that those tremors felt 'round the world was an instance of two parallel universes touching each other, and her life from that moment onward takes two drastically different directions: in one life she lands in college, but in another life she's the ingenue of a big blockbuster film. THANK GOODNESS in one of her lives, she lands in the astronomy class taught by a world-reknown theoretical physicist who was laughed out of the Ivies for his ridiculous theories of parallel universes.  AM I RIGHT?!  The catch is that, unlike everybody else she knows, Abby seems to be the only person living in the new parallel world who has memories, no matter how vague, of her old life. 

What I thought would turn out to be a simple equation of Chapter Odd Number = This World, Chapter Even Number = That World ended up being a bit more complicated than that, which means the reader really has to pay attention to each chapter header to see when and where Abby is waking up each morning.  You see, instead of having a linear storyline in one world or the other, everything that happens to Abby in World X has an effect on her in World Y, but one year later.  Complicated, no?  There's a reason for this, and it has to do with the earthquakes, but frankly I didn't pay all that much attention to it.  Like books with time travel subplots (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Time Between Us, The Time Traveler's Wife, etc), I tend to just accept it at face value and move on without thinking about it too much, because inevitably the moment I stop to really contemplate the paradoxes, those books fall apart for me. 

I was actually really taken with this book.  It's not high literature or grand adventure, but it's a good story about high school and college, about the choices that we make, and how the repercussions of those choices may stick with us far longer than we anticipated.  It's friendship and jealousy and angst and first love.  It's about what happens when we let go and let God let parallel universes show us that despite their very different outcomes, we are essentially the same person. 

This book was a lot of fun. I can't pretend that it changed my life, but it made a day of travel and one night in a hotel room a lot more enjoyable than they otherwise would have been. The writing was neither so beautiful nor so terrible that it took me out of the story, but there was one point that made me snort, so I'm including it here. The scene: Abby wakes up in bed with the hot college boy she has had a few dates with:
"You're still wearing your shoes," he says, pointing. I am indeed still wearing my shoes. And every other article of clothing I came with, including my jacket and scarf. I think my purse is in the bed somewhere, too. "Were you afraid I'd get the wrong idea?" he asks. I look down at his bare chest and am instantly flustered. Holy pecs 
"It wasn't that," I say quickly. "It's just ..." Every excuse I can think of is creepier than the real reason. "Okay, yeah, I didn't want you to think that just because I was sleeping over, it meant that you and I would ..." Heat creeps up my neck. I can't even say the word without blushing. 
"Well, in the future, if you'd like to remove your outerwear before sleeping, I won't take it as a signal that you're asking for sex." 
I squirm under his gaze, suddenly very uncomfortable with all the sex talk. If you can't handle the sex talk, probably not ready for sex (pp. 274-275).
NB: This book will be published on May 14, 2013, by HarperTeen.  I received a free ARC upon request from my sales rep. 


  1. Ooh, this one does sound fun! And while I've never actually seen SLIDING DOORS, I do remember when it came out - actually, I'm not sure WHY I never saw that one. Hm. Anyway, PARALLEL is going on my list :)

    1. I suggest pairing the book with the movie and having a good weekend of it!

  2. sometimes that's all a book has to do, make a day better :-) nothing wrong with that.

    1. So true! Sometimes I lose sight of the fact that not every book I read must be life-changing.

  3. Okay so I love theories about parallel universes, and my FAVORITE multiverse theory is that a new universe is created everytime a choice is made, so this sounds awesome. Buuuut for some reason I feel like maybe it's a little too YA-sounding? Did it have a big YA vibe, or did it seem more adult?

    Anyways, adding it to my list of books to look for at the library. As well as that movie Sliding Doors, because how have I not seen that yet?

    1. Oh, this was squarely in the YA category. At most I suppose you could call it that ridiculous new genre, New Adult, as the character is a senior in high school and then later in college. Fun to read, and a pretty decent portrait of friendship, too.


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