Review: Parallel by Lauren Miller

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Rating: ***** / 5 out of 5
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Chick Lit
To be published on May 14, 2013 by Harper Teen
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Abby Barnes had a plan. The Plan. She’d go to Northwestern, major in journalism, and land a job at a national newspaper, all before she turned twenty-two. But one tiny choice—taking a drama class her senior year of high school—changed all that. Now, on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, Abby is stuck on a Hollywood movie set, miles from where she wants to be, wishing she could rewind her life. The next morning, she’s in a dorm room at Yale, with no memory of how she got there. Overnight, it’s as if her past has been rewritten.

With the help of Caitlin, her science-savvy BFF, Abby discovers that this new reality is the result of a cosmic collision of parallel universes that has Abby living an alternate version of her life. And not only that: Abby’s life changes every time her parallel self makes a new choice. Meanwhile, her parallel is living out Abby’s senior year of high school and falling for someone Abby’s never even met.

As she struggles to navigate her ever-shifting existence, forced to live out the consequences of a path she didn’t choose, Abby must let go of the Plan 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 within reach.

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An ARC was provided in exchange for a review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way.

When I read the synopsis the second time after requesting the galley, I thought to myself that it sounded really similar to Pivot Point’s premise, a YA book about parallel realities but that which I couldn’t bring myself to appreciate. I was dismayed, of course. To be honest, I wasn’t in the mood to read something like that again, especially since I had this feeling it’ll be the same old formula once more. After reading the first fifty or so pages, in a way, I thought I was right. The heroine and her best friend are your typical Mary Sues – the good-in-everything, insanely-beautiful-and-always-compared-to-models, loved-by-everyone, gets-the-hot-guys-effortlessly types. Been there, done that. I thought my hunch was right.

But there are times it’s wrong. If you just stick around for a while longer and go past your pre-conceived notions, you may find yourself reading a gem – a book with so much things to learn from and stuff to philosophize as you lay on your bed, staring at the dark. Parallel is one of those times.

True, the two best friends can be annoying sometimes with all their perfectness. There were instances when they said nasty things to this particular girl named Ilana, hating her for who-knows-why. But after 20%, that’s where the story becomes significantly interesting, especially with talks of science, of parallel worlds, of shared realities, of subatomic particles from two dimensions being linked beyond time and space, of the fact how our lives could be different right if we simply followed a different path back then. Get my drift?

Imagine this: it’s lunchtime and you’re insanely hungry. Your stomach is growling. You need to eat. Now, now, now. You go to a street, and find yourself staring at two restaurants. There’s Burger King to the right, and McDonalds to the left. You ask yourself, Me needs food now. Where to munch my nom noms?! You then decide to go to Burger King. On your way there, you bump into this super hot guy, causing you to fall to the ground. Thankfully, he saves you just at the nick of time. You gaze at each other’s eyes, and then there’s chemistry. With a shy, but knowing smile, you say, “Wanna grab a burger? My treat.” And there goes the beginning of your love story.

BUT WAIT!!

What if you didn’t go to the left? What if, for some odd, otherworldly reason, you decided to go for some McNuggets instead? You’d then go to the right, eat your Nuggets, then live the same mundane routine as always. You would have never bumped into that guy, and your love story would only have become a could-have-been. Your life may or may not (but most likely may) turn out differently.

That’s what we tackle here in Parallel, the possibilities of certain actions, big or little as they are, as well as the consequences of it. Thanks to a certain event, Abby’s life makes a 180 degree turn, as her reality and the reality of another world becomes linked. She wakes up with a different version of reality each and every time, thanks to the choices her parallel self is making, where her present is Abby’s past – one year and a day ago.

The plot is extremely intriguing. It definitely takes a unique turn in the sci-fi element. Although it’s not entirely new, as Pivot Point has somehow dived into this subject as well, although not as fascinating as this one, it still felt like one big emotional ride from 20% to end. I have lost count how many times I felt for the character every time she woke up knowing something has gone different for the day, but even though you feel that, you look forward to it, too. What happens now, now that the other Abby did this and that? How is our Abby going to react? There are a lot of twists, a great deal of events that would make your jaw drop, a number of instances that would make you want to stalk the author and demand “Why did you make that happen?!?! Whyyyyyy!! *sob*” At this point, the story was just too good that the heroine simply grew on me! She became more endearing, more vulnerable, and more determined. I can’t say the same towards the Parallel self, though. She definitely made a lot of things harder for our version of Abby! :P

The side characters are very captivating, too. Catilin, the best friend, may have annoyed me in the beginning, but like Abby, I found myself gradually liking her – her spunk, her wit, her sheer intellectual brilliance. I think it were her moments that gave this book a lot of depth – a friendship between two people that stands firmly on the ground no matter what circumstances may come to obstruct it. By the time I finished the book, I don’t think there was a character I vehemently disliked. All of them are well-rounded, and despite the unconventional love triangle (which isn’t really one, if you think about it), the author wrote it nicely with closures for both of them. Needless to say, I rooted for neither team, I simply cheered for Abby all the way!

But what I appreciated the most from this story was this sense of knowing I felt in the end. The way the plot was structured was just amazing that it made me actually ponder about the meaning of life. You’re probably thinking, “Psshaw, this chick is being too sentimental about this.” Maybe I am, but if there’s one thing I’m sure of myself it’s that I believe we make our own lives, as per the lines “I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul”, but it is no secret that I oftentimes wonder about destiny and its appeal, its greatness. That it doesn’t matter what choices we make along the way, the destination does not change; we will get there whatever detours we take.

Overall, this book touched on a fascinating topic and makes it work. If the first 20% annoy you, let it go. It will get better. Insanely, significantly better. This is a fantastic chic lit that was able to successfully incorporate sci-fi elements (quantum physics for the win), resulting to a captivating tale of love, friendship, and finding yourself in the grander scale of things. LOVE this book!

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Faye

Faye

A 21 years old Filipina who loves books, games, languages, and most especially, food. Secretly wishes to be an astronaut so she can explore the stars. Has a love-hate relationship with Philippine politics. To get in her good graces, offer her Foie Gras, Or shrimp. Or a JRPG. A YA sci-fi book works, too. You can follow her on twitter here: @kawaiileena

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    • FayeFaye says

      Haha, that’s the only thing I know of that’s universal in every McDonald chain. Here in the Philippines it’s always chicken + rice, chicken + spaghetti, 2 piece chicken + rice… x_x

      I’m super glad you also enjoyed it! It’s one of the best chick-lit I’ve encountered yet this 2013. :D

  1. says

    Hmm, I’ve seen such reviews of this one as to puzzle me exceedingly. However, I think, given that some have loved it, I need to try it myself, because I do love alternate universe story lines! Glad you had so much fun reading it, and thanks for the warning to stick it out through a rocky beginning.

    • FayeFaye says

      Thanks, Christina! It was such a surprise since I never got into Pivot Point, but this one handles the shared realities subject so, so much better.

  2. Gayatri says

    Looks like an Ooh La La book! I’ d love to read it but had second thoughts about it before cause someone in my circle didn’t like it . Now I am definitely gonna read it !
    Thanks for the recommend!