Friday, November 27, 2015

THE BOOK OF TOMORROW


Review of THE BOOK OF TOMORROW by CECELIA AHERN

This book about a magic book hooked me from the first page with a remarkable voice. Tamara Goodwin walked off the paper and introduced herself, and her story tugged at my empathy right away. This is a familiar tale about a spoiled rich girl learning what really matters - the hard way.

The book opens by filling us in on Tamara’s father’s recent suicide. She found his body. Soon after, she and her mother learned of their imminent bankruptcy and realize Tamara’s father likely opted out of life before the ugly turns he saw coming. They lose their mansion, their wealth, their reputation and status, their you-want-it-it’s-yours lifestyle and move out to the country to live with Tamara’s aunt and uncle. Her mother retreats into herself and spends all day a mute lump in her room. Meanwhile Tamara discovers an unusual blank journal. Each day a new entry appears in her handwriting, detailing what we will happen tomorrow. This gives her some unexpected control, but not as much as you might think. For example, you might know that if you take a certain action something bad happens, but that doesn’t mean something worse can’t happen by seeking an alternative route.

That all said, the magical element, the prophesying book, isn’t introduced until well into the story, over 50 pages. Foremost, this a novel about family and, well, tomorrows. The themes in this tale seep to the surface and intermingle nicely with every twist and scene.

I liked Tamara from the start, even if perhaps we’re not supposed to like her that much. Maybe it’s her self-awareness that endeared her to me despite her flaws. She knows full well that she’s been spoiled and that she can be cruel to people when she doesn’t get her way. She calls herself a horrible person. Silly as it sounds, I found her less horrible for saying so herself. And it’s always enjoyable to watch a well-handled character transition. She tells herself that she wishes her dad had talked to her instead of killing himself, but she acknowledges that without being on the other end of his suicide she would have been a brat if he came to her and admitted they were about to lose everything.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like rating books and one of my reasons is that, for some books, I want to give so many stars before a certain page count and a different number after. This is one of those books. I would happily give the novel 5 stars up until the climax. Then the story, that felt so carefully crafted and nuanced to me, falls into a pit of convoluted melodrama that undermines everything I loved earlier. While I didn’t like all the revelations near the end and how they’re handled (like a “Here’s what was really going on” info dump), I will say that I liked the very end of the novel, the exact scene and note on which the author choose to conclude everything.

What I loved about this book, the strong themes about how much control we really have over our life, remain potent even through the bits I didn’t like. It’s well-titled, too. THE BOOK OF TOMORROW doesn’t merely refer to the magical journal, but to this book itself, a story examining the concept of tomorrow and everything that word means.

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