I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.In a World Just Right by Jen Brooks
Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers on April 28th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Sci-Fi, Young Adult
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High school senior Jonathan Aubrey creates worlds at will. In Kylie-Simms-is-my-girlfriend, he’s given himself everything he doesn’t have in real life-–the track team, passing grades, and his dream girl–-until one day he confuses his worlds and almost kisses the real Kylie Simms. Now his girlfriend Kylie and the real Kylie are changing, and Jonathan must solve the mystery of his own life to save his love from a gruesome fate.
Full disclosure: I read to page 200, skimmed to from there to page 327, then read till the end. If you dislike it when reviewers don’t finish books before embarking on a review, then I’m about to really upset you.
In a World Just Right had a really cool premise: a teen who can create worlds with his mind! Heck, yeah! Sci-Fi! Count me in on this road trip into Awesomeville! Then I realized that he created a world specifically to be with a girl that he couldn’t be with in the real world and my enthusiasm admittedly dipped a little as my stalker meter started to go off on my dashboard. Then I kept reading and reading and found out that Jonathan didn’t give two shits about anything else besides said girl and was completely obsessed in a not-so-adorable fashion. That’s when I stopped reading.
I won’t bore you and make this a super long review, because I could go on and on here, but here are the biggest things you need to know about why I couldn’t finish In a World Just Right:
The Ultimate Stalker:
Jonathan has a really sad background. His parents, aunt and little sister all died in a plane crash years ago and he survived. After the accident, he mostly stayed to himself, not actively getting involved in school or interacting with anyone his age more than it was required of him. But he also discovered that after the accident, he could make worlds out of thin air. And because he is a teenaged boy, who is in love with a girl he’s never spoken with, he creates an entire world that is dedicated to full filling this need. He aptly calls it Kylie-Sims-Is-My-Girlfriend.
I don’t think I’ve ever encountered this level of stalking in any other character. I mean, he has Edward Cullen beat because HE CREATED A WORLD for her. That alone gives me pause, but since I knew this before I read the book, I can’t really complain, can I? And yet, here I am shamelessly doing it anyway. He FOLLOWS HER AROUND in that world. He MAKES SURE HIS SCHOOL SCHEDULE IS THE SAME AS HERS. The world is set up TO ENSURE THAT SHE WILL ALWAYS LOVE HIM AND NEVER BREAK UP WITH HIM. Even when Fake Kylie has feelings of dislike or of needing space, she can’t do that because that’s not how that world works.
This guy literally stalks her in no less than 3 different worlds. Read the book and you’ll know what I mean. It was written to be romantic, I’m sure. But I connected with none of the characters so it registered to me as Creepy As All Get Out.
Oh Hey, It’s My Dead Sister, But Whateves ALL I CARE ABOUT IS KYLIE:
I know you’re probably thinking, “WUUUUUUUT?” and that would be an appropriate response to that. Much more appropriate than Jonathan’s response, I can assure you. Let me back-peddle a bit. So there was a point where I was getting a little bored with In A World Just Right and struggled to find reasons to continue. Usually when I find myself in this situation, I try to push myself to at least 50% before giving up. But out of the blue, the book starts getting interesting when Jonathan’s dead sister shows up out of nowhere and is able to visit all the worlds he’s created. A normal person might stop and think, “hey wait a second… how is my sister alive? I thought she was killed in the plane crash?! I should probably find out because this seems rather important!” Instead, do you know what Jonathan’s top priority is? KYLIE. He spares exactly 2 seconds to think about his sister and then it’s back to saving Kylie from some devastation he’s created by mixing up his worlds.
I legitimately thought this was the biggest fail of the book. The mystery of how Jonathan’s sister manages to be alive, is dropped on the reader pretty early and she spends a lot of time with him after the fact “training” him and teaching him new World Maker skills to save Fake Kylie and Real Kylie. But Brooks deliberately keeps the reason for her existence hidden so that the ending can have maximum impact. The problem with this is that I stopped giving a shit once I realized Jonathan didn’t give a shit about his sister he’d been crying over earlier in the book. It was this huge elephant on every page with him refusing to plague her with questions that matter. If I found out my sibling was alive, you can bet your ass that I’d need to know WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY and HOW immediately.
And oddly enough, as much as he constantly obsessed over Kylie, he never has sex with her. Now, I’m not one to think every YA novel needs or should have sex in it, but it felt like is was actually missing from the story. I mean, HE CREATED A WORLD AROUND HER LOVING HIM and you expect me to believe they just spent all of their hours of alone time holding hands and kissing? A high school, senior boy, who also created a world of dance clubs and strippers just for himself, has never had sex with his made-up girlfriend? Or thought about it? Or monologued about it?! The girl he’s been in love with for years!!
I don’t buy it.
He Can Create Worlds Because Science:
I’m not really a fan of contemporary books that are essentially contemporary books with a sci-fi backdrop. Almost like those fake LifeTouch backgrounds for your school photos where you look at them and wonder, “Is this really necessary?” I understand it would be great for those who aren’t really into the genre, but as a veteran, it sucks hard. I need that science, the reason for the existence of the weirdness to make sense. In A World Just Right doesn’t tell me anything. All we know is that he can create worlds because of the plane crash and somehow that is supposed to be enough to carry all your questions.
It’s a shame because I really feel like this book could have pushed limits and caused readers to ask big questions regarding the human subconscious, perception and reality. But the focus instead was on how Jonathan felt about Kylie and figuring out a way to be with her.
A good portion of In A World Just Right involves Jonathan going to school, following Kylie around, going to track practice with Fake Kylie, reading poetry in Creative Writing class with Real Kylie and angst over his family’s death. It had a tendency to really drag on and on at certain periods to the point where I wanted to throw myself against my white walls repeatedly like a pinball machine just to shake things up. I started skimming Jonathan’s internal monologues about Kylie and was surprised that it practically makes up 50% of the novel. If he isn’t with her, he’s constantly thinking about her and nothing else. (Oh did I mention he lives with his rich uncle? No? Well, don’t worry about him because he doesn’t have ANY page time in the entirety of this 400 page doorstopper.) It became tedious to read about the same thing over and over, and I was surprised at how little I missed as I skim read. I stopped to read most of the dialogue between him and his sister and even Kylie.
The Ending or You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me (Here there be spoilers):
Convoluted is the best way to describe the ending. Click the spoiler tag if you are curious. Be warned, it spoils the ending completely and mercilessly.View Spoiler »Turns out that poor Jonathan has been in a coma the entire time and hasn’t lived in the real world since the plane crash! So he’s basically been living in his mind for a few years. Who would have guessed?! Except, I actually did. It became really obvious, and if Jonathan had paid attention to his conversations with his “sister,” he would have pieced it together a lot faster. So he has to decide if he wants to wake up or go back to living in his made up worlds. But time’s running out because his uncle, bless his heart, has been taking care of him in the hospital all these years and is ready to pull the plug tomorrow! How will Jonathan be able to create worlds if his body is dead? Fuck yeah, Science!
Of course, he ends up choosing the Real, Real World and closing off his Fake Worlds. And guess what he does? He finds the Real, Real Kylie and follows her off to college. Swoon. Shoot me. The end. « Hide Spoiler
I just could not with this book and then I could, obviously, because I finished it. I was so curious on how it would end and I enjoy punishing myself as my track record has shown. Honestly, the writing wasn’t bad at all and if this was a straight up contemporary novel, I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more. I’ll probably try out the author’s other stuff down the line, but this one was a bust for me.