This book was originally sent to me as part of a blog tour but I chose to drop out for reasons that are going to become clear. Unfortunately this one… did not work for me. This is probably going to be semi-spoilery because I want to explain the things I didn’t like so read with caution if you don’t want to be spoiled.
Rating: 2 stars – it got an extra star for good prose.
Trigger warnings: death, miscarriage, attempted rape, abortion, one occurrence of bi-erasure
What did I think?
I want to start by saying that my problems with this book probably wouldn’t be so severe if the book was marketed differently. I also want people to read other reviews before they take my word for it, because this has hundreds of positive reviews on Goodreads. However, none of those reviews seemed to cover my major problems with it.
The first thing is only a one line off-the-cuff comment, but put me in a off about 20% in. There’s a gay character, interested in another character, and when he finds out that the guy he’s interested in was once married to a woman his internal narration says:
‘So he’s not gay. Damn. Then again, maybe he’s like you and got married by mistake.’
The bi-erasure here is really blatant and while I don’t feel like it was done intentionally it’s really, really uncomfortable to read as someone who is bisexual. The implication that he’s either gay, and married a woman as a mistake, or straight is so frustrating. It also wasn’t prudent to the plot itself so felt totally unnecessary. If this line had been included, Picasso ended up being bi and this attitude was challenged then I’d have been fine with it. But instead we move on, he’s straight and everything’s ignored. So this line was totally unnecessary. If it was just ‘So he’s probably not gay. Damn’. I would have been fine with it, but this just rubbed me up the wrong way. You could take this line out of the book entirely and it’d make absolutely no difference to the story, and wouldn’t erase bisexuality.
The other thing that I really struggled with was that I felt the summary on Goodreads and Amazon was completely misleading. The summary states:
When offered a one-way trip to the past, Isabel sacrifices everything for a chance to change the rapidly deteriorating present–and see her murdered lover one last time. When she arrives twenty years in the past, buck naked and mortally wounded, she has 24 hours to convince a stunned but enraptured nineteen-year-old to change their future. Definitely easier said than done, as success means losing him to a brainy, smart-mouthed bombshell (her younger self), and that’s a heart breaker, save the world or not.
Isabel doesn’t travel to the past until 63% into the book. Page 337 of 412. Everything after that point fits what I expected. But the first 337 pages? Isabel goes through hell. She meets a guy who broke her heart 15 years ago and they go to dinner, she nearly dies and he proposes immediately. Which is? romantic? (I didn’t think so, but hey.) The world is falling apart, so they go to a cabin and that’s pretty cool. They decide not to try for a baby, because the world is falling apart, but she falls pregnant anyway. Isabel and Diego are ecstatic, and then she has a pretty sudden and on-page miscarriage. At this point I had to put the book down and walk away for ten minutes. I’ve been told to expect a “”Funny, Romantic & Harrowing” (Publishers Weekly Starred Review) dystopian love story and prepare to encounter a finicky time machine, a mysterious seashell, and a very clever dog” (from Goodreads) and so far I’ve had a post-apocalyptic traumatic shit-show. Sure, I was told it was a ‘laugh out loud tragedy’ but so far there have been no laughs and so much tragedy it doesn’t feel like it’s balanced at all. There’s a two second period where it tries to convince the reader the miscarriage might be plot relevant, then that’s abandoned. I felt genuinely miserable. The only humour so far has come from over-used dad jokes and puns being forced into the text. Like, one of the characters main traits seems to be ‘uses stupid dad jokes’. I didn’t laugh, I mostly just cringed. Putting well-known internet jokes doesn’t a funny book make. And the romance was so inexplicable and sudden that I didn’t feel like it was that romantic. More misery for Isabel as her husband goes missing, she recovers from an injury, a guy attempts to rape her twice (ugh, more trauma that didn’t serve any plot or character development purposeAT ALL) and then eventually, 337 pages in, Isabel goes back in time.
Does the joy start now? Do we have the moment where she convinces a young Diego to change the world, then lose him to her younger self? No. We get a lot of Isabel lecturing Diego on how he should change all of his instincts and every part of his personality so that young-Isabel will find him easier to date. She says she has reasons, and these are hinted at in her own first person POV chapters but no explanation is given. There’s insta-love between Isabel and young-Diego but I couldn’t for the life of me work out what their bond was supposed to be. The entire last section of this book is Isabel highlighting all the reasons they don’t work as a couple, demanding he change and not telling him why. My god. I wanted them to break up and I knew that the world would end if they did. They felt totally incompatible.
And then the book just? Ended? I know that there’s more in this series (four I think?!) but despite this book being 400 pages long, it felt like half a book. If the first 63% was trimmed WAY back (losing some of the we-love-to-traumatise-women tropes) then we could have had more time for a resolution, I guess, but instead it felt like the book ended and the rest of the plot is hidden in book two. I won’t be picking it up. There was too much left unexplained and without any chemistry whatsoever between the characters, I can’t find the energy for it. I wanted time-travel hijinks and competition with her past self, not… this. I finished this book sad and tired, and I feel like the summary is totally misrepresentative of the book itself. But then, it has well over 200 5 star reviews on Goodreads so I guess I’m in the minority? Honestly, I feel like I read a different book to everyone else.
Despite these complaints, I did finish the whole book and that’s because the prose itself was great and DL Orton is clearly a good writer on a technical level. I’ll be the first one to put my hands up and say that this book obviously works for a lot of people and while I did want to share my opinions on it, Goodreads has a huge selection of positive reviews and there has just been a blog tour from Write Reads with a huge selection of bloggers giving their opinions worth checking out before you take my word on it.
Add it on Goodreads here!