Author: Gretchen McNeil
Release Date: September 17, 2013
Publisher: Balzer & Bray (HarperCollins imprint)
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. Josie and Jo realize that they are doppelgängers 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?
3:59 is dark and dangerous, a complicated and at times intense exploration of the possibility of alternate realities and the different versions of ourselves that could be on the other side. Josie is lured to this other world at the prospect of living a life that both is and isn't her own, but just because it's different doesn't it make it better, and she'll soon discover that the grass isn't necessarily greener, or safer, on the other side.
Considering the way Josie's life is taking a nose dive towards embarrassing and utterly heartbreaking, it's no surprise that she jumps at a chance to try out a different life. A life that's already hers, in a certain way. Her mirror is a portal to a different world, an alternate reality where there's another version of herself that also relishes the chance to get away. A life where her boyfriend hasn't drifted away from her? A life where she's popular? Of course she's interested. But just because it's different doesn't mean it's better, and soon Josie's moving as quickly as she can to figure out which side of the mirror she wants to be on.
What rooted this book more on the scientific side of things as opposed to the fantastical side of things, like Emily Hainsworth's Through to You, is that McNeil includes scientific reasoning as to why the portal exists. In this fictional world, through bizarre circumstance and complicated quantum mechanics, it's possible to connect parallel realities. It makes it sound slightly more human, more strangely possible, and so much more dangerous. It's just as likely that the attempts to join the worlds would've resulted in massive explosions. But not here.
This book makes you think about the life your living and the life you think you could be living. Maybe things would be different if you'd said yes instead of no to someone, if you'd turned right instead of left when driving. Maybe, in that version of your life, things would be better, easier, more advantageous for you. But it's just as possible that, with all of its faults, the life your living is the best one out of a million possibilities. What will it take Josie to realize that? And once she does, what will it take her to find her way back home?
I found this to be an intriguing sort of thriller, mixing complex, potentially impossible science and teen angst and wants with danger, deception, and a little horror here and there. Fans of the author's previous books will surely enjoy this new one.
(I received an advance copy of this title to review from HarperCollins Canada.)