Tandem by Anna Jarzab
Series: Many-Worlds Trilogy #1
Published: 08 October 2013
by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, 428 pages
You. Your best friend. Every person you know.
Many worlds. Many lives–infinite possibilities.
Welcome to the multiverse.
Sixteen-year-old Sasha Lawson has only ever known one small, ordinary life. When she was young, she loved her grandfather’s stories of parallel worlds inhabited by girls who looked like her but led totally different lives. Sasha never believed such worlds were real–until now, when she finds herself thrust into one against her will.
To prevent imminent war, Sasha must slip into the life of an alternate version of herself, a princess who has vanished on the eve of her arranged marriage. If Sasha succeeds in fooling everyone, she will be returned home; if she fails, she’ll be trapped in another girl’s life forever. As time runs out, Sasha finds herself torn between two worlds, two lives, and two young men vying for her love–one who knows her secret, and one who thinks she’s someone she’s not.
The first book in the Many-Worlds Trilogy, Tandem is a riveting saga of love and betrayal set in parallel universes in which nothing–and no one–is what it seems.
I will admit Tandem sounds like an utterly compelling novel on the surface. Parallel worlds? Inter-universal travel? Even the cover and chapter breaks are incredibly gorgeous! Therefore, I’m completely devastated that the book in general, felt meh to me. Protagonist? Meh. Adventure? Meh. World-building? Meh. Romance? You guessed it! Meh. What’s worse? The story reminded me of my favorite Barbie movie as a little girl – Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper – and seeing as how it fell short of my expectations, it kind of crushed my hope of reading a nice YA literary version of that movie.
Before I go on any further with this review, here are some terms you need to know beforehand:
1. Analog – one’s doppelganger from another universe.
2. Aurora – the parallel universe Sasha will travel to.
3. United Commonwealth of Columbia (UCC) – the country where Sasha’s doppelganger is the princess.
4. Farnham – The neighboring enemy of the UCC.
Lets start at the start. Although it might not be very pleasant because the beginning of the novel really annoyed me. Cue groaning over insta-attraction and nerdy-girl-charmed-by-popular-sporty-jock cliché. It completely disturbed me how fast the romance between Sasha & Thomas-disguised-as-Grant (Grant was Thomas’s Earthly analog) progressed in the first few chapters. I completely understand that as a teenage girl, she’ll be attracted to a physically spectacular male specimen (who seems polite and charming, blah, blah) but who in the world falls for a guy after one date? Moreover, Sasha had never spoken to Grant (who was actually Thomas in disguise) much so she barely knows the dude. It was simply appalling.
However, once the setting switched to Aurora, Sasha obviously found out Thomas-as-Grant lied to her so there goes their insta-connection! I honestly really liked how their relationship had to start from square one again because it allowed me to give the romance aspect a second chance. Thankfully, it did get better since Sasha and Thomas started off friends the second time around and you’ll get to see more of how their feelings for each other developed. I still wouldn’t say the romance was impressive, but it was definitely much better than the start.
However, my biggest disappointment with Tandem was the lack of excitement and suspense. There was action, but it was far from the kind that kept you on the edge of your seat, dying to know what happens next. With its premise, Tandem certainly had a lot of potential to be an amazing read but the execution was not as good as it could’ve been. I also wished the world-building had been more detailed; it would have been nice to see more of the cultural aspects of the UCC, since Sasha was after all disguised as the country’s princess. More description of the people’s habits, fashion and maybe even a variation in their accent would have made the story a lot more vibrant.
Despite the above mentioned letdowns, there were two characters in Tandem I thoroughly enjoyed reading about – Thomas and Callum. Thomas is Juliana’s (the real princess of the UCC) bodyguard and Callum her fiancé from Farnham. Hence, with Sasha disguised as Juliana, we get to see a lot of Thomas and later on Callum, when he entered the story a little after the midpoint. I know the synopsis implied a love triangle/angle would occur but in my opinion, that was pretty exaggerated. In the story, it barely felt like a love triangle was present! Thomas and Callum were also such life-like characters. Their personalities were both brilliantly portrayed with very personal faults and strengths.
All in all, Tandem‘s a pretty okay book. Nothing too spectacular yet not downright horrible either. I do think the theoretical physics part of the book (all that stuff that makes sense of parallel universes) might intrigue lovers of sci-fi although sometimes it does seem pretty vague. The ending unfortunately, felt abrupt to me but it definitely will leave readers curious about how Sasha will move on from there. Will I read the sequel? Well, only if I’ve got time on my hands in the future I guess.