The Next Together by Lauren James
Genre: Young Adult / Time-travel / Contemporary / Romance / Mystery
Publisher: Walker Books
My Rating: 4/5
Synopsis: Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again. Each time their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated. How many times can you lose the person you love? For Matthew and Katherine it is again and again, over and over, century after century. But why do they keep coming back? How many times must they die to save the world? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace? Maybe the next together will be different.
I initially picked up this book for two reasons: 1) I loved the cover, and 2) I’d heard some great things about it. Still, I was a little skeptical as time-travelling has been done a fair bit in fiction and I wondered if this book would be able to bring anything new to the genre. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised! Lauren James really took the theme and ran with it, creating a fresh twist on a genre that, perhaps, has limited wiggle room.
I was immediately drawn in by the use of HTML text in the book to create the sense that something wasn’t quite right, and this is what made the novel unique for me. It really hooked me from the beginning as I began to understand that Katherine and Matthew’s lives weren’t entirely their own. It was interesting to see this HTML text alongside sections about Carlisle in the 1700’s where it just seemed so out of place, but in a good way. I also liked the use of notes, texts, e-mails and webpages throughout as it enhanced the narrative by allowing the author to drop in little hints and tidbits.
As you might have now worked out, the book spans a selection of Katherine and Matthew’s lifetimes, from the 1700’s to 2039. I enjoyed the subtle differences in the protagonists’ personalities and appearances through the centuries. For example, Katherine is quite a bubbly, witty character, but the societal constraints of the 1700’s meant that she couldn’t always go about cracking jokes and innuendos because it wasn’t proper for a woman in those times. I really enjoyed being able to visit these different time periods, but with the same two protagonists.
My favourite time period was the 2039 story-line, as I’m a sucker for stories set in the near-future, but I definitely enjoyed the 1745 story-line. 1854 was perhaps my least favourite time period but that doesn’t mean it was bad, or not as well crafted as the others, I just connected with the other time frames a little easier.
As for Lauren James’ writing, it was funny and straight-to-the-point. She doesn’t faff about with long passages of unnecessary description and, whilst I do like some flowery writing every now and then if it’s done well, this story did just fine without it. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on any great lyrical passages or profound philosophical thoughts. Lauren James’ strength lies in pushing the plot forward instead of hanging about to describe the dress of some minor character.
However, the reason I only gave this novel 4/5 instead of 5/5 was because sometimes the dialogue felt a little stilted. It didn’t always flow well which was slightly jarring, but this is Lauren James’ first book so her technique can easily be honed for upcoming novels. Whilst the flow sometimes dropped with the dialogue, it was often witty and she knows how to craft dialogue that fits with the character.
The book was left on a somewhat ambiguous note and I’m eager to see what The Last Beginning has in store. The ending confused me a little as all the loose ends weren’t tied up, and I think some aspects could have been made a little clearer, but I’m sure they’ll be sorted out in the sequel. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and struggled to put it down. Lauren James clearly has a talent for writing and plotting and I’m looking forward to seeing how she does with the next book.
Have you read The Next Together? What did you think? Are you excited for the sequel? let me know in the comments below!