I was a little scared to read this one at first. I had only received one or two ARCs in the past (not very great ones) & this would be my first time using NetGalley. I read book descriptions for a while before ultimately deciding on this one from Little, Brown. The cover looked beautiful & vibrant. The story description sounded like the sort of book I want to read right now.
“After Henry’s girlfriend Val leaves him and transfers to another school, his grief begins to manifest itself in bizarre and horrifying ways. Cause and effect, once so reliable, no longer appear to be related in any recognizable manner. Either he’s hallucinating, or the strength of his heartbreak over Val has unhinged reality itself.
After weeks of sleepless nights and sick delusions, Henry decides to run away. If he can only find Val, he thinks, everything will make sense again. So he leaves his mother’s home in the suburbs and marches toward the city and the woman who he thinks will save him. Once on the George Washington Bridge, however, a powerful hallucination knocks him out cold. When he awakens, he finds himself kidnapped by two strangers–one old, one middle-aged–who claim to be future versions of Henry himself. Val is the love of your life, they tell him. We’ve lost her, but you don’t have to.
In the meantime, Henry’s best friend Gabe is on the verge of breakdown of his own. Convinced he is somehow to blame for Henry’s deterioration and eventual disappearance, Gabe is consumed by a potent mix of guilt and sadness. When he is approached by an enigmatic stranger claiming to be an older version of his lost friend, Gabe begins to fear for his own sanity. With no one else to turn to, he reaches out to the only person who can possibly help him make sense of it all: Val.”
This will be so hard not to spoil.
This book felt like it came out of my own head. How many times have we all wanted to go talk to our high-school or middle-school selves & tell them to lighten up or knock some sense into them? Or pondered what we’d be like years from now if we’d made different choices?
I started out slightly confused. My expertise with time travel books extends about as far as A Wrinkle In Time & the third in the Harry Potter series… So I relied on my time travel film skills instead. This read more Looper & maybe a teensy Donnie Darko than Back to the Future, despite the book being pretty funny at certain points. Better yet, I’m gonna recommend this mostly to my fellow Doctor Who fans. Whovians, get on this.
The story shifts perspective between different aged versions of Henry, while Gabe’s & Val’s perspectives each stay in the present. If that sounds a little confusing, it’s because it is. Without spoiling anything else, I’ll just say that the switching between the Henrys takes a second or two to get used to.
But my initial problem was that a lot of the exposition came from long conversations between Henry & the men who claim to be his future selves. However, eventually this gets woven into the story more & I got the flow of it. I became invested in the plot & wanted to know how it would end. I think I’ll read it again because it’ll be interesting now that I know the trajectory of what happens.
Henry is pretty eccentric, & I basically liked his character right off the bat. (Plus I love the way this book touches a bit on mental illness without being a book about only mental illness.) Then Gabe won me over the second he started talking about what it’s like to work in a stoner shop that sells pipes & barely scrapes legal status. Some funny shit.
I love Val because she’s not another single female character that has zero female friends, just choosing between two love options. In fact, she has pretty realistic hopes & fears. Plus I don’t remember the last time I read a YA/New Adult novel where the female character has a life outside A) her love life. Or B) her duty to save the world from whatever dystopian tragedy it’s going through.
These characters have parents, they have jobs, they have classes, they go out with people other than each other. But the characters’ lives outside their love life is not the main focus, so don’t be fooled into thinking this isn’t a love triangle. Because it is…but I like it. It’s fun & it works.
The book is rightfully categorized under the New Adult genre. The characters felt familiar to me. The chapters from Val’s perspective all felt like things I could imagine my girl friends or myself thinking. I know guys who act exactly like Gabe’s roommate Cal. In fact, I originally didn’t know whether the writer was male or female while I first started reading. So I turned it into a game where I would guess by the end, & even then I had to recheck the name.
The thoughts & dialogue were so natural. Ferguson clearly remembers what it’s like to be a young college student. He also knows how college students in Manhattan are, which is its own breed in my (completely biased) opinion. Or maybe he has kids because this stuff is spot on. Seriously, how does he know the fragile grounds of female roomie friendships so well? & the relationship arguments sound like they were plucked right from that couple I see in that bar I go to every other weekend. Even when we get a scene of an older version of Henry on tour, the dialogue felt more natural than some rock memoirs I’ve read. (That was directed at you, Steven Tyler.)
Maybe if you’ve read my reviews & have seen my playlists, you know I love music. Although it’s not the book’s main focus, I loved the small musical references here & there, & the one or two passionate passages about Henry’s drumming. The title makes more sense once you’re almost done with the story, but sounds are Henry’s obsession & it’s sort of a tool for time travel. Plus I always friggen loved the word “tinny” & it was used twice!
It also has some slightly solipsistic vibes to it. Whether that comes out of the time traveling parts or the stoner parts or both is up in the air.
Plus I think we all love stories about friends like this. The kind of friends that basically share parents, make fun of each other, & the level of comfort is so natural it seems almost weird to other people.
Overall a great read. I was pleasantly surprised & look forward to reading more from this author.
A cheated a bit on the playlist I made for this one. Ferguson lists some artists he listened to while writing. (Loving the ones I recognize from The Leftovers.) But I added a bunch of my own & what not. I refrained from including Grand Funk Railroad’s Time Machine because it didn’t really fit the vibe, but this restraint alone shows how seriously I take these things.