Fans of Cecelia Ahern’s work will no doubt love her latest novel, The Book of Tomorrow, but typical YA readers may have a more difficult time getting into this beautifully written, but slow-paced story about a spoiled teen girl who learns some hard lessons about life, fate and how your actions affect the world around you.
The story follows Tamara after the suicide of her father. She’s grown up rich and spoiled, but after her father’s death, she and her mother are left with nothing — so they must move in with her aunt and uncle in the Irish countryside. Besides rebelling constantly against her apparently well-meaning aunt and uncle, Tamara meets the cute guy who runs a traveling library and picks up a strange book. The book, she comes to realize, is a diary … and each night, it’s pages are magically filled with her own writing about the day to come.
Ahern’s writing is beautiful, there is no doubt about that. But the story itself, and the pacing, may not appeal to all readers.
Let’s start with the pacing: for the majority of The Book of Tomorrow, it’s extremely slow, with small bits of action or advancements in the plot divided up by long, meandering passages of prose. Beautiful prose, yes, but largely descriptive or introspective. And while this sort of writing isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I often found some of the passages contradictory to who Tamara is as a character. As the narrator, these are her words and thoughts we are reading and I felt like she was often dealing with a split personality disorder. She tells and shows us frequently that she is not a good person, yet occasionally has thoughts that someone much nicer would have. Does she care, or is she indifferent? Is she rude and mean and hurtful … or is she kind and loving? I know teenagers are often going through a struggle to find their identities, but I never got a good grasp on what Tamara was really like — and when I came close, it was a person I didn’t like. Her negative qualities made it very difficult to like her as a narrator. It didn’t help that her supposed journey through the book never felt like much of a journey at all, or a very genuine one, at that.
The Book of Tomorrow is also difficult to place when it comes to themes and genres. Now, I am a fan of mixing genres when it is done well. But I felt like there was no truly consistent flow between the different aspects to this story. There are bits of YA, bits of contemporary fiction, bits of mystery and thriller, bits of romance, bits of the supernatural. But none of these bits ever fit together; they felt disjointed and as such, it was hard as the reader to get a good grasp on what kind of book I was reading and where the story was going. I’m all for surprises in fiction, but reading The Book of Tomorrow just made me feel lost most of the time. By the time we reached the climax, I felt torn: on the one hand, it was the most interesting/exciting part of the book. But on the other hand, it felt completely out of place from the rest of the story.
And I have to talk about the magical element to this book. From the very beginning, the narrator asks you to suspend your disbelief: okay, done. I’ve no problem with this. I love books featuring the supernatural or paranormal. But I felt like The Book of Tomorrow either needed MORE magic in the story, or none at all. The little bit that is there just didn’t feel right. There wasn’t enough to make it fit well in an otherwise contemporary, realistic story, so instead it just kind of sticks out.
That said, Ahern has truly created some genuinely interesting characters, my favorite of whom is Sister Ignatius, who is developed into a vivid, multi-dimensional part of the story. Some intriguing side characters — Marcus, Weseley, Arthur and Rosaleen, to name a few — also add color to the story and keep things interesting.
The Book of Tomorrow definitely has something for everyone, it’s just not certain whether everyone will enjoy the way these elements have been combined.
The Book of Tomorrow is in stores now.