By Ingrid Jonach
Available now from Strange Chemistry (Angry Robot)
I was psyched to read this book. I mean, just say the title aloud and marvel at it. WHEN THE WORLD WAS FLAT (and we were in love). That's poetry. Through in the fact that it was standalone sci-fi and I was lining up to read it. But somewhere along the way, I fell out of love with this book.
I love that YA blurs genre lines and blends tropes together in new ways. But WHEN THE WORLD WAS FLAT is never quite convincing as a romance or as a work of science fiction. In the beginning, there's a nice sense of dread. Protagonist Lillie can't sleep, haunted by creepy dreams that are getting worse. Around forty percent in, nothing more unexplainable has happened than strange dreams and deja vu. Then, suddenly everything gets explained. In fact, it all gets so explained that even shivers and the human imagination are no mystery. And yet, there's still quite a bit of book to go. What crazy parallel universe hijinks will fill that space? Not much.
As for the romance, Lillie is drawn by new guy Tom (much like the other girls in school). But she really thinks there's something there, despite the fact that the dude is withdrawn from everybody and completely hot and cold to Lillie. But not to worry, because it all gets explained. And they aren't just in love because they're soul mates, they're also in love because Lillie has a sense of humor. No, it isn't much more convincing in context. I was expecting some major swoon, but there is zero spark to this romance.
Going back to those creepy, haunting dreams . . . they're perhaps the biggest disappointment. They seem to foreshadow a showdown, one that never comes. Honestly, WHEN THE WORLD WAS FLAT is brimming with potential. I particularly liked Lillie's relationship with her best friends at the beginning. Sylv and Jo are very different from Lillie and each other, but none of them are suited to the popular crowd, and they're used to each others' foibles. At the same time, they're also the best at poking each others' soft spots. Friendships being tested, dreams coming true, and then it all becomes bogged down in a boy with the personality of wet paper.
Ingrid Jonach is a competent writer, but WHEN THE WORLD WAS FLAT has serious pacing issues and a lack of real action and suspense. Her female characters are varied and flawed, particularly in their propensity to insecure teen girl slut-shaming. I'd be interested in seeing what she's doing a couple of novels from now, because she seems to have some nifty ideas. Unfortunately, WHEN THE WORLD WAS FLAT falls flat (and I'm not in love).