Thursday, December 8, 2011

Parallel by Claudia LeFeve

Title: Parallel
Series: Travelers
Author: Claudia LeFeve
Length: 2994 kindle units (includes a preview for Glimpse by Stacey Wallace Benefiel)
Rating: 3 stars

The Plot

Etta has not had an easy life. After her parents died, she was shuffled to one foster home after another, until two years ago she ended up in the Dominion House for girls. Now she’s just biding her time until she finishes high school and will be out on her own.

Then one day Etta meets a man named Cooper, who claims that she is from another universe, one that he must return her to. Suddenly, she finds herself in a strange version of her reality where she lives with a loving family and is dating the most popular boy at her fancy private school.

But things are far from perfect in this new too-good-to-be-true reality. Because Etta’s father hid her in another universe for good reasons, and she’s about to find out what they are.

The Good

Parallel is good in that it has a relatively original premise. The novel is in part homage to Fringe – Etta even mentions that she watches the show at one point – but it also contains the added bonuses of time travel and parallel realities. A time travel series done well can be amazing but is quite difficult to pull off. I can’t always wrap my brain around the intricacies of a Doctor Who plot arc, and how many of us still have not figured out how Data had two heads? By the same token, a time travel series that fails to tie up all its loose ends can fall on its face pretty quickly. I’m not sure which kind Parallel is yet.

The Bad

I think one of the hardest things for any author of the paranormal is to pull of the big reveal scene. The story starts with a seemingly ordinary heroine who is unaware that she is about to be tossed into the middle of some supernatural battle. Somehow some unlucky soul has to be the one to convince her not only to take part but also that the battle exists in the first place. As readers and writers, we want this scene to be over with as soon as possible so that we can get back to the action. However, we also want it to be believable. And in a book like Parallel where the premise is hard to demonstrate with a quick reveal of fangs or shapeshifting ability, “Hi, I’m from another universe, and so are you! You should totally get in my car and drive around the city with me” doesn’t really cut it.

Other little things bothered me about the narrative. For example, when Etta discovers that the other version of herself – the one who everyone thinks she is – kept a diary, she elects not to read it all right away. This is patently absurd. This is information that she needs in order to function in her life, not Cassandra Clare’s new novel. She would not want to read an entry at a time in order to savor it.

The Romance

I don’t want to say too much about the romance for fear of spoiling the book for people, but I can make a few comments. For the most part, Etta is too busy adjusting to a completely new reality to put too much focus on her love life, but she does have two cute boys in her life: popular captain of the lacrosse team Alex and mystery man from another universe Cooper. I actually think the relationship with Alex is done quite well and demonstrates Etta’s confusion with her new world. The Cooper romance… Yeah, any detailed explanation would require spoilers, so I shall let you discover it on your own if you so choose.

Will I read more?

For the most part, I found Parallel to be entirely lackluster. I didn’t get swept up in the story or the characters, and I didn’t look forward to going back to read it. In some parts, it reminded me of reading Daniel Defoe. To those of you never subjected to Robinson Crusoe or Journal of a Plague Year, I shall explain. Defoe wrote the first novels in the English language, and for this he deserves much credit, but his storytelling lacks emotional content. Robinson Crusoe is the tale of a man stranded on a desert island, but it reads more like a step-by-step instructional guide to living in the wilderness than it does an exciting tale of survival against slim odds. Etta seemed to have a similar lack of emotional connection to her life. She would talk about how she engaged in pranks at her foster homes, which often got her kicked out, but I got no feeling from her of being a troublesome kind of person.

At this point I am unlikely to read more because I don’t feel particularly engaged with the characters. I do have some curiosity about how all the time travel and inter-reality travel threads will sort themselves out, but probably not enough to read further.


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