Title: The Next Together (2015)
Author: Lauren James
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Contemporary
Extent: 354 pages
Review: Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated. Maybe the next time they’re together will be different…
Plot-wise, this is an incredibly ambitious book. It plays across various genres—historical, science fiction, romance, mystery and contemporary—and it technically has eight main characters: two people in four different eras. It’s told in a non-chronological order and goes back and forth between the years 1745, 1854, 2019 and finally the present, 2039. I liked the last two—not so much the others.
I found both Matthew and Katherine to be lacking depth. Their entire existences revolved around the fact that they were meant to be together, and it shows. Over and over I felt like they’re being pushed into my face so much that they started to feel forced as a couple, i.e. that they were only together because they’re ‘meant to be’. I didn’t get the chance to know either of them as people, and their constant and instant falling in love irritated me.
My favourite incarnation was probably the 2019 Matthew and Katherine, where they were happily married and both researchers working at the same lab and there’s less insta-love as we’re introduced to them when they were already together. Unfortunately, these two were also the ones with the least screen time—we mostly spend time with them through their notes, chat conversations and email messages, so even their cuteness didn’t manage to bump my rating for this book. Not to mention that present-day Katherine seems to insist that they’re super cool, and I’m just… not convinced. D:
I found the time travel aspect to be super confusing, with not enough explained. When the 1745 and 1854 Matthew and Katherine swapped places, for example, a lot of the times I didn’t even know what was actually happening. Couple that with the fact that I found these two historical incarnations dull and pretty similar in some ways, so whenever it was their turn, I pretty much disconnected from the story.
When we reached the end of the book and it’s revealed why these two were reborn over and over again throughout the centuries, the explanation wasn’t enough to make me think it was a worthwhile journey. Instead, everything was still vague, and the epilogue left much to be desired.
Understandably, this sets the stage for a sequel, but it also makes the book fail as a stand-alone for me. I still have so, so many questions: Who are the ones in control of these two and how, when and where they were reborn? Why did it need to be these two? What’s so special about their [highlight to read spoiler] daughter that they’re brought back again and again just to have her [/end spoiler]? Why does everything have to be so unclear?
The idea behind The Next Together has so much potential—I was just extremely disappointed that the execution didn’t go as smoothly as I had expected it to.