Published: October 8th 2013 by Random House AU
Format: eARC, 428 pages
Genres: Science Fiction
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You. Your best friend. Every person you know.
Many worlds. Many lives--infinite possibilities.
Welcome to the multiverse.
Sixteen-year-old Sasha Lawson has only ever known one small, ordinary life. When she was young, she loved her grandfather's stories of parallel worlds inhabited by girls who looked like her but led totally different lives. Sasha never believed such worlds were real--until now, when she finds herself thrust into one against her will.
To prevent imminent war, Sasha must slip into the life of an alternate version of herself, a princess who has vanished on the eve of her arranged marriage. If Sasha succeeds in fooling everyone, she will be returned home; if she fails, she'll be trapped in another girl's life forever. As time runs out, Sasha finds herself torn between two worlds, two lives, and two young men vying for her love--one who knows her secret, and one who thinks she's someone she's not.
I’ve been quite excited about Tandem – parallel worlds, a mysterious boy, what’s not to like? However, I feel like I’ve been duped with this book. I don’t think it satisfied many of my expectations, although I did enjoy the differences between our universe and that of Aurora. I’m hoping the sequel will be much improved.
My main disappointment stems from the protagonist Sasha. Firstly, her real name isn’t Sasha, and I don’t think I ever found out why she goes by it instead of what’s on her birth certificate. Secondly, she’s contrary and inconsistent: she wants to escape from Thomas when she has absolutely no chance of navigating her way around the new universe; Thomas explains of what’s happening to her with a multi-verse and she believes it, but then many chapters in she’s still looking for someone to jump out and tell her it’s all a bad joke. Thirdly, Sasha becomes Princess Julianna too naturally – Thomas and Gloria tell her basically nothing about Julianna but she fools everyone around her successfully, which I found hard to believe. She is also weirdly conflicted about Thomas: he kidnapped her and she should hate him, but she spends more time mooning over him than actually trying to save herself.
If the protagonist is disappointing, the secondary characters are hardly a step up. Sasha’s analogue in the new universe, Princess Julianna, is selfish and arrogant, with very little to commend herself to readers, and Thomas, the love interest, is bland in the extreme. Even the plot twists that were supposed to make him interesting only furthered the archetype he embodied, and I didn’t find him impressive at all.
In terms of romance, this book fails epically. Not only does Sasha have feelings for the untrustworthy person who brought her into a parallel world because he was ordered to, Thomas immediately sees something in Sasha that sets her apart from all the girls he’s met in his universe. Which is silly, really. I feel like the romance was due to Stockholm Syndrome on her part and due to the novelty of Sasha being from another universe in his. The two spend very little getting to know one another, and Thomas is always lying anyway.
Aside from Sasha, who I believe ruined the book for me, there is the question of the multi-verse itself. I love Aurora: it’s different history and amazing aurora in the sky, its cities and politics. I think the parallel world is well-crafted, but Sasha’s discovery of it could have been a lot more sophisticated. For example, in Ian McDonald’s Planesrunner, the protagonist goes to a public library and researches history to learn how the new universe differs from his, but in Tandem, Sasha is spoon fed the information clumsily by Thomas and Gloria.
I enjoyed the plot of Tandem. It was convoluted enough for my tastes, and although the characters allowed it to become predictable, I still found I was interested in Sasha’s story. I think this is because I wanted to find out what the General’s final plan was, even though it’s made obvious by how crudely he is painted (of course the mean general wants to wage war on everything he can), and to see how Grant was doing. The book doesn’t end on a cliffhanger and there are still many loose ends. The second novel will obviously explore the consequences of Sasha and Thomas’ decisions in this book.
Tandem could have been a lot more sophisticated and better executed novel, and I feel disappointed because books like this are the reason why fans of science fiction claim that YA SF brings nothing of quality to the table. I’d dearly love to see the author look at this series from another angle for future books, but I’m not holding my breath for Tether.