Book Review– 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil


Title: 3:59
Author: Gretchen McNeil
Published: September 17, 2013
Publisher:Balzer + Bray

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Synopsis:
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 doppelgangers 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?

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This is a quick read chock full of twists and turns, believable science fiction and a dark splash of fantasy and horror. Where it falls short however, is the entire plot is given away in the synopsis and the ending is a little too neat–a little too packaged.

I’m going to start with the things I did like. It’s got a very Alice In Wonderland, mirror flip-turned-upside down vibe going on. From the first page the author leaves the reader unsettled. Something’s coming, and it’s really hard to pin point just what is going on. I think what makes this really effective is that it’s not just one thing, but a group of things, stacking on top of each other. When Josie and Jo switch places, I think the story really starts to shine. The glaring contrast between the two girls really gives light to the ‘good twin v bad twin’ battle. Though in this case they’re doppelgangers. I figured out one of the twists early on, after Josie alters her appearance to look more like Jo.

The story doesn’t really pick up until after the switch, when Josie learns that there’s more to Jo’s world than the girl had initially let on. Josie for a few chapters flounders, trying to get her footing and deal with the people who look just like those she left in her own universe, but act so very different. The characters are different enough that they stand out and separate from their alternates. One of the very obvious differences in Jo’s world is the introduction of the Nox. I really would have loved to see more about them, rather than the flash bang description and then a rather disturbing scene further along in the book.

One of the things that I did really enjoy is nothing was exactly what it seemed. Everyone had their own agendas and secrets. I did see the major twist coming from a mile away, but it didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the book. I did feel as though everything was packaged up neatly with a bow–even the heart-wrenching moment, there was closure there. I would have preferred a little rawness to this, but I can see why the author kept it neat.

Overall: pink5 Quick read that plays with science and fantasy on a real world scope. A little too neat of a finish, and predictable but still enjoyable.

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