I’ve always been interested in parallel universes ever since I saw the Boy Meets World episode that takes place in Shangri-La, an alternate universe. After first seeing that episode, I spent the entire day researching worm holes, just dreaming that a parallel universe could exist. Because I always enjoy these types of stories, I just had to read Relativity by Cristin Bishara.
Relativity is about a science-obsessed teenager named Ruby who was uprooted from California to a small town in Ohio when her dad remarried. Because her mom was killed in a car accident when she was only four years old, Ruby has always imagined how it would be to grow up differently. Living in Ohio without her friend/crush George only makes her wonder more. Shortly after moving to Ohio, she finds a tree with a door built into it, which she learns is actually a door to several other universes. She explores these hoping to find what she dreams up as the perfect reality.
The idea of parallel universes is a common one, but I really enjoyed Bishara’s take on it. Instead of a drastically different place, she explores how subtle differences could lead to a much larger difference, which is based on the butterfly effect that Ruby mentions often. Ruby’s exploration of the universes helps to pace the story well. You get to learn a lot about each world and learn alongside Ruby how the science behind the travel works in the story. It’s captivating and will tug on your heartstrings.
As much as I loved it, I have to admit that the premise isn’t entirely unique. Of course a teenager in her situation would hope for a different life. It helps that she was actually interested in the science behind it, which made the story much more unique, but it’s not quite worthy of five stars.
Ruby was easy to root for. I hoped the entire story that she would find what she was looking for. I enjoyed her interest in science and the way her thought process worked. Rather than instantly believing in the phenomenon, she relied on research and the scientific method. It was refreshing to read about such a smart character being able to use their talents.
Despite seeing several different versions of the other characters, Bishara does a great job at using each version to highlight subtle differences and showcase their defining traits that are present in each reality.
The style is where the story most suffers. There is nothing wrong with her writing; it just appears average. There was nothing that really set Bishara’s writing style apart from any other young adult lit that I have read, which is a lot. I hoped that there would be something that would make it stand out but was let down.
The one positive of her style was the way she weaved between Ruby’s thoughts and her speech. It was fascinating to read what she was really thinking, but didn’t want to say out loud. Although sometimes Ruby would accidentally speak her thoughts without realizing, which created some funny and awkward moments for her.
Bottom Line (3.8/5)
Despite the average writing style, Bishara manages to tell an interesting story about a girl searching for happiness in several alternate worlds that is absolutely worth reading.
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