The Next Together (The Next Together #1)
Author: Lauren James
Genre: YA Romance/Historical Fiction/Contemporary/Fantasy/Time Travel
Release Date: September 3, 2015
Rate: 5 Stars!
How many times can you lose the person you love?
Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.
Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace?
Maybe the next together will be different...
A powerful and epic debut novel for teenagers about time-travel, fate and the timelessness of first love. The Next Together is told through a mixture of regular prose, diary entries, letters, "original" historical documents, news reports and internet articles.
The Next Together is a phenomenal debut novel that centers around one of the greatest questions in life - do soul mates exist? Expanding on that concept, the book follows Katherine and Matthew - the two main characters - throughout various time periods from centuries past to the future. In each of these slices of time, Katherine and Matthew inevitably find each other and fall hopelessly in love - only to have their lives ended too soon. The story focuses on four specific time frames - two in the past and two in the future - where Matthew and Katherine repeat their ill-fated romance again and again. They always leave a deep impact on the world when they are together - and seem to lose their lives doing so.
This is a difficult review to write for me, simply because this book is one that falls into the "I loved it so much but I'll never be able to really explain why" categories. It's the kind of book that you experience instead of read - that changes you. I know that I won't be able to do this book the justice it deserves while writing this review, so let that be an indication of how much this novel moved me and how amazing I think it is.
I'm not even sure where to start. The concept of soul mates is vast and unknown, which makes it a fascinating topic to write about. Most people, at one time or another, have wondered if "soul mates" actually exist - and from there only more questions arise: If soul mates exist, how do you know when you've met yours? How do you know if you even will meet them? The world is big and crowded - your soul mate may live halfway across the world from you. What if your soul mate dies before you have a chance to meet them? So many questions come from this romantic notion, and a person could sit and think about them for a lifetime. For this book, the author takes the concept of soul mates and creates a story around them. It's a beautifully tragic story - that Katherine and Matthew are trapped in a sort of time loop - one where they always find one another and fall deeply in love during their lifetimes, only to be killed or die - and then begin the cycle over again. We get to see four such instances throughout the novel. Katherine and Matthew are both fantastic main characters. They're both strong, intelligent, determined, devoted to their cause (whatever that may be during a specific lifetime), and love each other fiercely. I absolutely loved the way that each of their characters would react when they meet in each life - it's like their hearts and souls recognize each other as soul mates - which acts as a kind of catalyst. Even though I obviously knew that they were going to fall in love in each of the time periods, I still swooned and got all mushy each time. When it comes down to it, I'm a die hard romantic and this type of love - soul mates or love that transcends time always gets me. I absolutely loved watching Katherine and Matthew meet each time and then fall in love with one another.
Even though this is a story of soul mates and the like, it's so much more than that. There's four different subplots throughout the novel - each one a distinct story of it's own and vital to Katherine and Matthew's overall existence. I was fascinated with each world we got to see - from the Crimean War period to the future year of 2039. The author wrote every setting in such a vivid and descriptive way, that I could easily close my eyes and picture myself alongside Katherine and/or Matthew each time. Being able to transport a reader to four distinct worlds - especially when they are all in different time periods - is a true gift and shows the raw talent the author possesses. The author did just that and then some for this novel. Another layer of the book that doesn't rely solely on the soul mate aspect is the impact that Katherine and Matthew have each time they come together. They always create waves in their worlds and end up losing their lives because of it - which I think makes it all the more romantic as well as intriguing. The novel addresses these happenings and ties it together with the couple's repeating life cycles. Are they doing something wrong each time and they'll have to keep coming back until they get it right? If so, what are they meant to achieve and how will they know it's the right thing to finally set them free to live one long and loving life together? I thought that this question and the surrounding concepts were fascinating, and gave the book a sense of suspense, tension, dread, and action. For each lifetime we're shown, this is one of the huge questions that needs to be solved - and it had me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out just what exactly they needed to do, if anything, and why they kept coming back. (That, of course, was when I wasn't swooning over their relationship and love.) I have to at least touch on the fact that the book isn't written in just plain prose. It has several other pieces inside - from notes, diary entries, letters, articles and Internet information. I absolutely loved that the author wrote the book this way. The extra bits we get to see outside the regular prose makes it all the more realistic and engaging - and it definitely sets the novel apart from the rest of the genre and other books out there. It was a fantastic decision and I would love to read more books that included things of this nature!
If you've read my reviews before, you know that I put a lot of emphasis on point of view. My favorite style is almost always first person because the reader gets to know the narrator on such a deep level that isn't available any other way. This book was written in the third person point of view - and I actually enjoyed it this way. I believe that the author chose the best style for the novel when using the third person POV. If it had been done in a different way, the reader would have gotten incredibly confused and it would have detracted from the story. There were too many different versions of the characters and with them living in different time periods - a first person POV would have overwhelmed both the story and the reader, and ultimately ruined the novel itself.
I honestly can't write a review of this novel that will do it the justice it deserves. I don't have the right words to impress upon everyone the magnitude and depth of the story, the different concepts and time periods that are touched upon, or just the sheer brilliance of the novel in its entirety. All I can keep saying is that I absolutely loved this book. It's by far one of my favorites of 2015 so far and is a new personal favorite of all time. I freaked out when I discovered that it's just the first in a series. I honestly can't wait to see what will happen in the next installment - I want it now! I'll definitely be re-reading this book several times while I have to wait. Overall, this is a beautifully written, epic debut novel that is going to put the author in on the map - and will have readers devouring each page to discover more of Katherine and Matthew's story. I can't recommend it highly enough to readers of all genres - especially those who enjoy time travel, romance, fantasy, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, and stories about soul mates. Four words can sort of sum it up, if I have to: READ. THIS. BOOK. NOW. I swear you won't regret it and I hope that you'll love it as much as I did.
BEAUTIFUL. TRAGIC. EPIC. A NEW ALL-TIME FAVORITE!
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She now lives in the village of Berkswell in the UK.
You can find her on Twitter at @Lauren_E_James, which she mainly uses to fancast actors as her characters and panic about all of the overly ambitious plans she has for her PhD, or her website at http://lauren-e-james.tumblr.com.
She likes strong, intelligent women, Dylan O’Brien, and things with plants on them. These are her favourite books: http://www.myindependentbookshop.co.uk/Laurenelizjames.