“I don’t think there are any true heroes. Just people who ignore their survival instincts long enough to do something incredibly foolhardy.” – The Next Together, Lauren James
This is a book that my friend Rainbow, who happens to be one of the sales reps I work with, asked me to read. I read the synopsis and didn’t feel like reading more – I did have a phase in which I enjoyed stories about reincarnation, but I just wasn’t sold on the whole “reincarnating lovers who are meant to be together in every lifetime” thing. The words on the cover put me off – “how many times can you lose the one you love?” and “a powerful and epic debut about the timelessness of first love.” I wrote this off as a romance and didn’t think much about it until I finally picked it up to read. Oh, how wrong I was.
It was powerful, all right. And epic. And very romantic. But it’s not really about that, or just that.
Katherine and Matthew, the protagonists of The Next Together, were two very interesting characters who do get born again and again through time. In each lifetime, they find one another somehow, and fall in love. The main timelines shown in the novel were set during the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle, and two timelines in the future, in 2019 (which includes a plot for bio-terrorism) and 2039 (where the “main” Katherine and Matthew were from.)
The Katherine of 2039 was just a chemistry student who is crushing on her new classmate, Matthew, when she was spooked to see old photos at her grandmothers’ house, because the people in the photos (Katherine and Matthew of 2019) looked exactly like herself and Matthew. She and Matthew would go on to uncover their past lives, noticing that each time they were reincarnated, they seemed to be right in the middle of an important event in history. Most of the time, their involvement in these events saved lives. This led them to discovering the danger that their present was in, and the sacrifices they had to make to prevent it.
While these two were uncovering the past, the narrative jumped to the POVs of the other three Katherines and Matthews – they had been a lady and her servant, a journalist and his assistant, and two scientists in these respective timelines. Every single time, there were subtle differences in their characters despite the fact that Katherine was always Katherine, and Matthew was always Matthew. Their interactions were always funny and sometimes poignant, and despite the fact that I wasn’t in it for the romance, I was quickly swept up by theirs – they just played off each other so well.
Katherine, in particular, was amazing. I loved her sense of humour. If this book had nothing else, her character alone could carry the whole story. But this book was more than that. It’s science fiction and romance and historical fiction with a side of mystery and war and government conspiracies and – it all fits. Despite the timelines and all the characters bearing the same faces and names, and all the should-be-too-many elements dropped into the book, it never got confusing or difficult to get through. Every single timeline felt like something I’d want to read about and explore further (this is rare for me, as I’ve an aversion for a lot of historical fiction.)
The book is peppered with bits and pieces of letters/emails, blog posts, social media statuses, chat logs, and online/newspaper articles which gave more flavour to the whole thing as well as offered certain clues, which combined with the lines of codes in between the POVs led to a bigger revelation, and explanation on the hows and whys of what was happening to Katherine and Matthew, as well as a sort of introduction to the next book, which features a new character.
After finishing The Next Together, I couldn’t wait to start on The Last Beginning, even though I was a little disappointed that Katherine wouldn’t be a main character in it. If you’re looking for a smart, highly enjoyable YA SF with a good dose of believable romance (despite the premise none of the relationships between all the Katherines and Matthews ever felt forced), then this is the book for you!
I received an ARC of this book from Pansing Distributors Malaysia, through work. Thank you Rainbow for asking me to read it!