Again Again

Told in overlapping timelines--with multiple scene do-overs--this thought-provoking YA novel plays with the idea of parallel universes as a teenager grapples with love, understanding and forgiveness. Plus a bunch of unruly dogs.

The summer after her junior year at a boarding school, Adelaide attempts to recover from an unexpected breakup with her boyfriend ("I am an egg yolk of misery inside a membrane, and the name of the membrane is Mikey broke up with me"), come to terms with her younger brother's drug addiction and fall in love with someone(s) new. Those are the facts readers can be (mostly) sure of. How all this happens is where it gets tricky.

In Again Again, E. Lockhart, known for tinkering with timelines in Genuine Fraud and for twisting plots in We Were Liars, imagines different but concurrent scenarios for Adelaide's every step. For much of the story, she goes down one path: she pursues a boy she meets during her summer job of walking dogs. But alternate details of the relationship, as represented in different fonts, unfold along parallel routes, much like a choose-your-own-ending story, except "you" don't get to choose--Lockhart does.

In spite of the unusual timeline, Lockhart keeps the action moving. Scenes are short and just repetitive enough that readers know it's a re-do, but different enough that it's clear this is a synchronous event. What makes Again Again especially intriguing is that this is not a sci-fi novel. The worlds are not defined or literal. They are, simply, other possibilities. We make small choices all day long, every day, and others react. The layers of possibility are infinite and exciting. Or disappointing. Or catastrophic. Or... different. It's a way of looking at the world(s) that will come back to readers, again and again. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

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