Wednesday 23 September 2015

The Next Together, Lauren James

Pages: 356
Publisher: Walker
Release Date: 3rd September 2015
Edition: UK proof, review copy

A compelling debut about the timelessness of first love

Teenagers Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again. Each time their presence changes history for the better, and each time they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.

But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace? Maybe the next together will be different…

All of the praise for Lauren James’ debut had me unbelievably excited to read it, and while I enjoyed The Next Together, it didn’t blow me away like I was expecting it to.

The novel tells the story of destined lovers Katherine and Matthew. We follow their incarnations in 2039 where they are post-grad biology students investigating the deaths of their lookalikes in 2019; in 1854 when Matthew is a journalist for The Times and travelling with the soldiers to report of the Crimean War, along with his assistant, Katy, disguised as a boy and called Kit; and then in 1745 during the Jacobite rebellion as Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Highlanders fight for England’s crown. It would have been very easy to get confused between the timelines, but each is strong, clear and engaging.

Unusually for me, I enjoyed all three timelines equally. I loved the mystery of 2039, the risk of Katy’s disguise being discovered in 1854 and the forbidden attraction bet a lady and her coachman in 1745. James clearly put in a crazy amount of research for each period and it enabled her manipulate history effortlessly; I even had to Google a few things that she had changed as they convinced me against what I thought I knew! I also loved the inclusion of many old school ‘that’s what she said’ jokes – appreciated in every century, they are! As the story developed, I began to lose interest in 2039 a little and sadly more focus began to be put on that timeline. Although I loved the notes Katherine and Matthew wrote for each other in 2019 that started each chapter, I did end up skimming most of Katherine’s diary entries. They was a lot of information in them so I couldn’t really skip them, but I wasn’t particularly interested in them.

Once the entries from time periods ended, something else came in. A computer program talking of time-landscapes, objectives and requests for interventions. It was all very intriguing, and there were a few moments where I actually exclaimed out loud, ‘what is the freaking objective?!’ – my cat had no idea either. It became a little frustrating, but then when we finally found out in the final few pages I didn’t feel too satisfied with the answer. It threw up so many more questions than it answered and I’ll likely read the sequel purely to answer those questions…

The Next Together is a fun, clever and unique debut and there’s no denying that Lauren James is a very talented storyteller, it’s just that her debut didn’t quite live up to the hype for me.

Thanks to Walker for the review copy.


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