by M. G. Buehrlen
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
For as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of the past. Visions that make her feel like she's really on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the World's Fair.
But these brushes with history pull her from her daily life without warning, sometimes leaving her with strange lasting effects and wounds she can't explain. Trying to excuse away the aftereffects has booked her more time in the principal's office than in any of her classes and a permanent place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean and get rid of them.
It isn't until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: Her visions aren't really visions. Alex is a Descender - capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories.
Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn't want Alex to travel again. Ever.
And will stop at nothing to make this life her last.
(synopsis from Goodreads)
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this one. Time travel and reincarnation can be done right... or they can be done disastrously. This book fell somewhere in the middle. I think part of that boiled down to the fact that there are still a lot of unanswered questions... especially about the reincarnation aspect.
I liked the characters, for the most part. Alex is a bit different from the typical YA heroine, in that she's not annoyingly beautiful and perfect (while insisting that she's not with false modesty). Alex is kind of a withdrawn nerd, with no friends to speak of, who cares more about her family than her social life. At the beginning of the book, she's not doing too well at school, but it's not because she isn't smart. She's actually kind of a tech whiz. I thought that was different and refreshing. The other characters are intriguing, too. I really liked Blue (the blue-eyed boy mentioned in the synopsis), even though he was almost too perfect at times... though his adorableness does help set up the star-crossed love thing rather nicely, and the reader can fall in love with him along with Alex, leading to some painful heartstring tugging.
My main complaint with this book (other than the dismal Kindle edition with no italics in a book that has characters speaking in a foreign language at times) was that it had a number of historical inaccuracies. When Alex traveled back in time to 1927, she ended up hiding in a Dumpster (which wasn't invented until 1935) and watching someone use paper napkins (which also didn't come into use in the U.S. until the 1930s). When she traveled back to Ohio in 1961, she ran across a sign at a restaurant that pointed to entrances for "whites" and "coloreds" (despite the fact that the Ohio Civil Rights Act of 1959 prohibited discriminating based on race in public places). I'm not a huge history buff, so I didn't know these things off the top of my head, but they struck me as odd so I Googled them. I found it annoying that I could find these discrepancies in a few seconds, but the author couldn't make sure her facts were right.
Overall, though, I couldn't put this book down. I was sucked in by the story, so I was able to overlook some clunky (or just plain incorrect) bits of writing. It took some suspension of disbelief to get past the time travel and reincarnation aspects of the story, but I'm hoping some of those things will have more explanation in future books. And, okay, I just have to say it. That ending... seriously? Seriously? (Spoiler alert: it's a cliffhanger. I was expecting a lot more answers and resolution than what we were actually given. I wanted to see if my hunches and suspicions were right. Now I have to wait until 2015 to find out!)
Overall: 3.57 out of 5