Genre: Sci-Fi, YA
Publication date: September 17th 2013
by Balzer & Bray
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 – Jo.
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?
From master of suspense Gretchen McNeil comes a riveting and deliciously eerie story about the lives we wish we had – and how they just might kill you.
-A copy was provided by HarperCollins Canada for review-
For an entertaining thriller, 3:59 does a good job. Some of it is overwhelming or far fetched, and specific parts made me cringe, but it’s an action packed read that’s great for a quick thrill.
With a title like 3:59 you already know that this specific time is important to the story. So from the start, the time stamp shown on every page works to keep us on edge as we know that something is coming – and soon. Then 3:59 hits and something bizarre does happen, but we can’t make sense of it quite yet. All we know is it’s ominous, and it’s likely due to her mother’s experiments – meaning science, and alternate universes.
This is when Jo starts coming into the story. First via dreams, then through the mirror. Jo and Josie are the same person living completely different lives. And what else can you do but want to live where the grass is greener? As such, they decide to switch places. It’s an interesting concept, one that was obviously well researched with scientifically solid ideas – ideas that stretch into sci-fi, naturally. On that note, while I appreciate complex detailing for a realistic world building especially in this genre, the science-filled discussions were quite bewildering. From profuse scientific jargon to age old multiverse theories with black holes and quantum mechanics… I’m a big fan of sci-fi books that touch on space–time continuum, but I stopped trying to wrap my head around the science encircling this one. I’m also wondering how this town bred all these teenage Einsteins. These regular school kids could have put any scientist to shame. So no matter how scientifically logical it may be (though I couldn’t tell you if it was), some parts of the book make it hard to suspend disbelief regardless. Having given up on making sense of it all, I treated it more as a mindless entertaining read and was satisfied on that front!
3:59 has a protagonist with familiar issues that many will be able to relate to. A distant mother, parental separation, a cheating boyfriend, a betraying best friend; Josie’s in a place in life where everyone and everything seems to be against her. Loneliness has sunk in hard, hence why she jumps at the chance to switch lives and savor what she used to have if only temporarily. Though why she would want to go back to a cheating boyfriend – even if he’s the doppelgänger – is beyond me. But she was heartbroken so I’ll forgive her. What I don’t forgive is the part in the romance where they start making out next to a mutilated body. The scene is meant to be romantic, I think? But the reader and both characters in question are fully aware that not 5 minutes past a person was EATEN by a monstrous beast RIGHT THERE! Then Josie acts all surprised and grossed out when, stretching from “romantic enjoyment”, she happens upon a dismembered foot. So not sexy, guys! *shudders* But whatever. Teenage hormones or something. Moving on from the gross.. There is a strong romantic sub plot in this book where Josie and Nick team up against an unraveling conspiracy. Her still being in love with the other “him” from her real life, and him falling in love with the “new” her gives a unique romance that I found interesting, even mind boggling. I both loved and hated how it ended, too. It’s bittersweet. Her last conversation with cheating Nick: *fist pump*
The pacing is non stop with a constant give of information and twists that keep our attention from straying. There are also invisible flesh eating flying beasts added in to give a touch of horror to this new world Josie has walked into. I personally found this exciting but I can see some may be less happy about it invading a predominantly scientific plot. With that said, I feel like this book was trying to be larger than it could be, but it’s an enjoyable read nonetheless.