Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Review: 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil

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I received this book for free from HarperCollins Canada in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil3:59 by Gretchen McNeil
Published by Balzer & Bray on September 17th 2013
Genres: Sci-Fi, YA
Source: HarperCollins Canada
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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.

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.


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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21 Responses to “Review: 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil”

  1. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    I’m really not sure if this book is for me. While I enjoy books that are detailed in their foundations of the world-building, this one seems a bit over the top. I already study science on a daily basis and I refuse to see it in the books I read as well.
    The romance does sound quite intriguing and the MC seems like she’s decent, so maybe one day I might pick it up.
    Fabulous review, Giselle!

  2. Pili

    Thank you for the great review, Giselle!
    I love when books get into the sci-fi science bit, even if it means I have to do some research to get my head around some of it! Will be giving this one a chance for sure!

  3. Megan @ Adrift on Vulcan

    Hey! Normal teenagers don’t act like that. Josie’s just an odd exception. 😉 But seriously though. Making out next to a mutilated body is gross. It’s amazing how anyone can say that that’s a great time to kiss. One reason why I was so hyped up for this book was because of the parallel universe, of course, and also because the premise sounded so different. I’m glad the book lived up to that expectation somewhat, but I’m a little afraid that the romance and the ambitiousness of the book will turn this into something less than enjoyable.

    But I love the sound of horror with sci-fi! Now to make the tough decision whether this is worth buying or not… Lovely review, though!

  4. Amy @ Book Loving Mom

    Well, I commented on this yesterday before you took it down lol!! I do really want to read this book. Too sciency does bother me sometimes, but I enjoyed both of this authors other books so I am looking forward to reading this one sometime.

  5. Molli

    I’m pretty jazzed to read this one but EW EW EW making out next to a dead body? NOOOO. It sounds like from what you said there’s too much science-y stuff going on, but I’m glad you still enjoyed this one. The idea of Josie and Nick falling for their alternate versions of each other is really intriguing. I’ll have to see what I think of this one!

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

  6. Soma Rostam

    Well, this is the first time I hear of this book but it does look good
    Although I think I will pass since I don’t have a lot of time to read something that I will potentially not like
    Your reader,

  7. Henrietta

    This sounds quite intriguing, although I wonder if I’d feel too grossed out by things like mutilated body or flesh-eating monsters. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Savannah

    I loved that dimensional stories are taking over YA. Have you noticed that? There are lots of them. I really enjoyed this story and like the fact that it goes futher that what we see. Great review.

  9. Candace

    The concept of this one sounds really intriguing to me! I have heard mixed things so I’m not sure if I’ll read this, but it’s nice to get a variety of opinions!

  10. Vivian

    Oh, I love a book that grabs your attention and keeps the action coming, even if the plot is a little farfetched. I really liked her other book, Ten, so I’m looking forward to this one. Great review!

  11. Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain

    I’m glad that you liked this one! Gretchen definitely did a lot of research on this one to pull off the world-building, and I definitely agree that some of the “romantic” moments were kind of gross, especially when they were making out in front of a mangled body. I’ve seen a lot of comments about why Josie would want to get back together with a cheating boyfriend, too.

    Fantastic review, Giselle! <33

  12. Ellen

    The synopsis for this book does sound intriguing, and your review is so helpful. I am not sure if I would like it or not, but I may check it out at some point.

  13. Aman

    “Teenage Einsteins” lol! After Jenni complained about the same science thing, I though me being a nerd could definitely handle that, but I’m second guessing. I’m still going to read this book but I’ll lower my expectations. Lovely review, Giselle! 🙂