The worst of my library booksale behind me, I can now get back to blogging! Yay!
So this being Tuesday, I have, as usual, a timeslip book...one for grown-ups (although I think it has tons of YA cross-over appeal). It's The Book of Tomorrow, by Cecelia Ahern (Harper Collins, 2011, 320 pages)
Just shy of her seventeenth birthday, Tamara's life of wealth and privilege collapses when her father kills himself, and she's the one who finds him. All his money is gone, and Tamara and her mother, who's deeply depressed, must leave their repossessed mansion outside Dublin to stay with her aunt and uncle in the country. Her uncle is the caretaker of a ruined castle, her aunt an insanely perfectionist housekeeper, and life in this little piece of rural Ireland could not be more different Tamara's hedonist, material past.
Angry, rebellious, and worried about her mother's retreat into an unspeaking stupor, Tamara is appalled at her new circumstances. But then the travelling book mobile (driven by a very cute boy) arrives, and with it a blank diary. Tamara claims it, and toys with actually writing in it....but never gets the chance. Because when she opens it, she finds her entry from the next day, already written.
Knowing what's gone right (and badly wrong) for her future self, Tamara begins to explore the world in which she finds herself--a place where there are painfully dark secrets, hidden for years, waiting for her to find them.
I found this a fascinating read, not just for the timeslippy premise of reading the diary entries one is going to write tomorrow (which is a brilliant premise, that added tons to the book). Tamara is an unreliable narrator, in as much as her emotions are horribly roiled. She presents herself to the world as unlikeable (one of her habits is alienating others so as not to risk becoming attached), and she's does indeed come across as obnoxious and foul-mouthed. But, rather miraculously, as Ahern unfolds Tamara's experiences, she makes her someone to care about. She was never entirely likable--I wavered between being annoyed with her, feeling sorry for her, and finding her entertaining--but never once did I consider not finishing her story.
But what really hooked me was the wealth of detail. Tamara's new existence comes alive with lovely descriptions of the ruined castle, the beekeeping neighborhood nun whose not averse to curling up with a romance novel, her aunt's disturbingly over-zealous cooking, and the two cute boys (yes, there's a second cute boy on the scene, even though they are all miles from anywhere--nice for Tamara). It's all very suspenseful, but the sun shines a lot and there are lightness in the narration (like the squirrel portrait painting episode) that kept me entertained as well as anxiously intrigued.
However, I did not like the end, which I felt was rushed. I was reading along nicely, letting the suspense of the mystery build up, and patiently waiting for Clues (which I was probably missing), when Bam, everything fell into place (and rather implausible it was, I though). It's possible, of course, that I was just turning the pages too fast in my feverish interest, and maybe it actually was more subtle than I'm giving it credit for--that's the downside of being a fast reader. But still, I felt let down, and not terribly satisfied.
Ant the time-slippish diary is never explained--it is clearly magical, and does indeed foretell the future, but there's no reason for it linked back into the story. So it ended up feeling untidy to me, and not as Magical as it could have been. Oh well.
(age-wise--Tamara uses bad language, gets drunk, and has sex. In short, nothing that would surprise an older teenaged reader)