Book One of the Many-Worlds trilogy
By Anna Jarzab
Available now from Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House)
Read my review of The Opposite of Hallelujah
Sasha is an ordinary high school student until she's taken across worlds to impersonate a kidnapped princess. She's none too thrilled about this, given that she wasn't asked and didn't even know that there were parallel worlds.
I thoroughly enjoyed TANDEM, Anna Jarzab's third novel and her first foray into science fiction/fantasy. I liked that it built slowly. The action is confined to Earth and Aurora, but Jarzab doesn't forget that her story is based on infinite possible worlds. Despite the fairly straightforward nature of TANDEM, Jarzab has set up excellent potential for future hijinks in the sequels. I trust her to do it well because she does it so neatly in TANDEM. Jarzab pulled off my favorite trick: having the plot answer a question niggling in the back of my mind.
I liked Sasha, who is uncertain about what college she wants to go to or what she wants to study. She's intelligent, but not driven. In some ways, she responds well to having a set role as Princess Juliana, even if she hates the public, controlled life. There is a love triangle, although not the worst sort. Sasha and Thomas, Juliana's bodyguard who kidnapped Sasha, have a mutual attraction. Meanwhile, Juliana has a fiance who begins to fall for Sasha who he thinks is Juliana. It's a little Shakespearean, with the layers of identities, which keeps it from feeling too route.
But really, the reason to read TANDEM is the cool plot and worldbuilding. Jarzab doesn't forget character, but it doesn't drive everything to the point where the world is window dressing. The politics are complicated and the dimensional disturbances are disturbing. At times TANDEM felt like it was just moving pieces into place for later, but I find it hard to complain too much when it seems like the book is setting up something really fun. My only complaint is with the villains, who go unnoticed by the heroes for quite awhile despite the fact they might as well have villain tattooed on their foreheads.
TANDEM is fun YA sci-fi. It's on the softer edge, but it does offer some scientific explanations that show Jarzab did research quantum mechanics. I liked that it had that scientific grounding even though the book felt like a fantasy. It's that sort of genre blending that YA does so well. There's even a bit of contemporary with the first part of the novel, which is a touch slow. But by the end, TANDEM really rocks.