Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Review: 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil

Title: 3:59
Author: Gretchen McNeil
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Release date: September 17th 2013
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult science fiction
Source: BEA - I received a free advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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Josie Byrne's life is spiraling out of control. Her parents are divorcing, her boyfriend Nick has grown distant, and her physics teacher has it in for her. When she's betrayed by the two people she trusts most, Josie thinks things can't get worse.
Until she starts having dreams about a girl named Jo. Every night at the same time—3:59 a.m.
Jo's life is everything Josie wants: she's popular, her parents are happily married, and Nick adores her. It all seems real, but they're just dreams, right? Josie thinks so, until she wakes one night to a shadowy image of herself in the bedroom mirror – Jo.
Josie and Jo realize that they are doppelgängers living in parallel universes that overlap every twelve hours at exactly 3:59. Fascinated by Jo's perfect world, Josie jumps at the chance to jump through the portal and switch places for a day.
But Jo’s world is far from perfect. Not only is Nick not Jo's boyfriend, he hates her. Jo's mom is missing, possibly insane. And at night, shadowy creatures feed on human flesh.
By the end of the day, Josie is desperate to return to her own life. But there’s a problem: Jo has sealed the portal, trapping Josie in this dangerous world. Can she figure out a way home before it’s too late?
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I rarely read science fiction, so I was wary starting this book. Honestly, the only reason I even read it is because I wanted to meet Gretchen McNeil, which is why I got a signed ARC of this book at BEA this year. Going in with low expectations, 3:59 turned out to be a book I really enjoyed - it definitely has its flaws, and it's not going on my favorites shelf any time soon, but it was entertaining to say the least.

Science fiction-y, dystopian, mystery-ish (whatever this is) kinds of books make my head spin. I know this can't be the case, but with fast-paced plots like the one in 3:59, it always feels like the author is just making up new plot twists as they go along. And it definitely felt that way in 3:59 - there are some crazy plot twists, and it seemed like we had a new bad guy every couple of chapters. I'm split on what to make of this: on the one hand, that causes for a lot of suspense and an exciting read. On the other hand, though, it got a little too crazy and unrealistic for the contemporary/realistic fiction fan I am, and a little confusing, too.

I had some problems with the world-building, too. There are a couple of smaller details that don't match up. For example, how come the Nox attacked Josie on her first day, if they supposedly can't sense her because she's from another universe? And how come the visions at 3:59 just started now, if the two universes have already been connected for six months? I can never read science fiction or dystopian novels without questioning the little things like that. I also found it a little strange how Josie figured it all out: yes, she's a physics geek, but I still find it unrealistic for a couple of teenagers to figure it all out if leading scientist couldn't do it.

What bugged me the most, though, is the romance. It is entirely melodramatic and insta-love-y, how Josie and Nick risk so much for each other when they've only known each other for a couple of days. The romanceseems unnecessary for the main plot, and it always frustrates me when a romance storyline is forced onto a story that doesn't need it. Also, these two have the most inappropriately timed make-out session. Just saying.

Wow, it seems like I've only mentioned negative things about this book now. Which is strange, because that is definitely all that I thought about it. Yes, there are a lot of smaller things that didn't work for me. But 3:59 was still a very entertaining read for me: it's suspenseful and fun, and definitely kept the pages turning. If you can ignore the smaller things and just get lost in a fun story, I definitely recommend 3:59!


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