Two reviews in a row?
The Next Together by Lauren James popped up on my radar last week (which makes me think the Fates project might be getting some energy next year). As research for the book, the idea of different time lines and the idea that two ‘souls’ (for lac of a better word) were destined (or programmed…) to be together was one I thought worth researching. While Ayah does allude to the fact that certain presences return to her life, her soul mate has only appeared once before. In The Next Together, we follow four storylines across history — moving to an end we cannot quite grasp
because it’s totally set up for a sequel.
Overall, it was a quick read, although I don’t think the storylines all worked. Furthermore, even in a fictional world, simply because you were in love in the past, does not necessitate an ‘insta-love’ in the future. Thus, the relationships all seemed a bit of a cheat. In my own novel, for example, while Ayah recognizes an important man from her past, she struggles in telling him about what happened between them. After all, she wants things between them to develop naturally and not because they might be destined for one another. She doesn’t want to force him into a decision, and at the same time feels he is owed the truth (whether or not he wants to accept it).
As a quick side bar, for young novelists (this is debut fiction from Ms. James), you can’t just have ‘World War III’ and sort of gloss over it all. As with above, this felt like very lazy writing, and I was rather surprised an editor wouldn’t have wanted a dramatic change in this decision.
Similarly, as I desperately try to incorporate more diversity into my books, this book was White People Town™ throughout. There are lesbian grandmothers (yay!), but everyone else is unmistakably white bread. I would’ve loved any character or section of history that was less focused on Western struggles. For example, in the Crimea section, why not transport the couple to another part of the world? Or, why did the relationship always have to be male and female? As with above, the choices felt lazy and not inclusive.
And a final note, safe sex is important — especially if one is writing a novel geared towards young adults. While I’m not clutching my pearls from the keyboard, some (any!) discussion of birth control or even a chat about ‘we just started bonking, maybe I don’t want to get pregnant’ would have been a welcome approach. The ‘but I’m desperate for your babeh’ plot line felt a bit contrived.
I suppose it wasn’t all bad, and the book offered an excellent incorporation of modern elements –e-mails, lists, and notes, all of which were very creative. Props on a great title and excellent cover as well.
Overall, I’m surprised the novel is so well received. I would pass on this novel, and while mildly curious about the sequel, would not go out of my way to find it.
Have you read The Next Together? What were your thoughts?