Thursday, October 10, 2013
Josie Byrne's life is spinning out of control. Her parents are separated and her father just moved out. She discovered her boyfriend cheating with her best friend and everyone at school is talking about it, effectively making her a social outcast. She also lost her job because she passed out waiting for a train to pass. With everything in a downward spiral, Josie becomes excited when she sees visions of an alternate version of herself and finally sees that other Josie (called Jo) in the mirror at 3:59 am and pm every day. They pass each other notes through the portal and quickly decide to switch places for day, leaving cheat sheets so they will fit in to the other's role.The alternate world isn't as good as it seemed. Although Jo is rich and privileged, she has no friends, no boyfriend, and lives in a world plagued with horrific creatures. Then Jo doesn't want to switch back and Josie is stranded alone in an alien world.
I had read Gretchen McNeil's other two books (Possess and Ten) and I just wasn't a big fan. I decided to give her another try and I'm glad I did. 3:59 has unexpected surprises and goes beyond tired tropes. Josie is an enjoyable protagonist. She's interested in science and she actually talks about different theories and problems. A lot of other books add something like that and then don't follow through with showing the character doing anything that that subject they supposedly like. She was a little preoccupied with what everyone else thought of her, but that's high school. Her life as she knew it was falling apart around her and she was doing what she could to hold herself together. In the other world, she has to more than that: navigate a hazardous world with completely new rules and figure out an alternate way home. The double cast of characters is a bit complex and allows Gretchen McNeil to make large or small changes to the characters. It's a feat to create well rounded characters and a much more difficult one to make equally fleshed out dopplegangers.
3:59 is a wonderful mix of many genres: romance, adventure, science fiction, horror, and mystery. It has something everyone can enjoy. The romance elements were just right: significant without overpowering the story. The science fiction was more technical than it would usually be at a teen level and I enjoyed it. It had me questioning the scientific theories and how much of it was based in reality. I loved the horror aspect with the Nox, which are invisible flying monsters that eat people. Some scenes were surprisingly gory. I did not expect anything like these creatures and they are pretty scary. The plot had some serious twists and turns that actually surprised me and kept me guessing until the end. The only issue I really had with the book was one bothersome scene where Josie and her boyfriend survive a Nox attack and start making out next to a mutilated body (which they knew was there). Another similar scene was when they discover more mutilated corpses, Josie finds it an appropriate time to make a confession about the boyfriend from her world. How is that in any way relevant when one of friends is dead in front of you? These two scenes came of as incredibly insensitive and in bad taste.
3:59 is a fun read with complex concepts and a double cast of characters. The book went to fast, I was a little surprised when I got the end of it. Gretchen McNeil has a talent for sucking the reader into her story and controlling the tempo of the story. I can't wait for her next book, Don't Get Mad.
My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins