19. The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern
Publication: Harper (January 25, 2011), ARC, 310pp / ISBN 0061706302
Genre: Fiction, Magic Realism
Rating: Borrow it
Read: February 8, 2011
Summary from Amazon:
Born into the lap of luxury and comfortable in the here and now, spoiled, tempestuous Tamara Goodwin has never had to look to the future—until the abrupt death of her father leaves her and her mother a mountain of debt and forces them to move in with Tamara’s peculiar aunt and uncle in a tiny countryside village.
Tamara is lonely and bored, with a traveling library as her only diversion. There she finds a large leather-bound book with a gold clasp and padlock, but no author name or title. Intrigued, she pries open the lock, and what she finds inside takes her breath away.
Tamara sees entries written in her own handwriting, and dated for the following day. When the next day unfolds exactly as recorded, Tamara realizes she may have found a solution to her problems. But in her quest to find answers, Tamara soon learns that some pages are better left unturned and that, try as she may, she mustn’t interfere with fate.
It’s taken me a while to figure out what I wanted to say about this book, because while I enjoyed it and had fun reading it, there was something about it that was bothering me. That something was actually bothering me so much it was making it hard to me to sleep at night, because I’d be laying there wondering wtf it was that was pinging my Wrong! radar. Then I had to tell myself to stop thinking about it because I had to be up early in the morning to catch a bus– anyway, I didn’t figure out what the something was until Wednesday night.
Here’s the something: I didn’t believe in the characters. I didn’t believe that Tamara was an actual 16-year-old girl; she felt more like an adult’s IDEA of a 16-year-old girl, one that was trying too hard to fit into that mold of “stuff teenagers like” (big hair, The Ting Tangs, Facebook) and it all came off as really false.
On the other hand, Tamara did say that she felt she had aged several years in the time since her father’s funeral, so maybe the two sides of her– adult and teen– weren’t playing nice together, and that’s what I picked up on.
But Tamara wasn’t the only problem. None of the other characters felt real to me, either, except maybe Tamara’s crazy aunt, and even that was a push. And then the crazy aunt got shoved into the “not real” side of things in the big reveal bit at the end of the book and it all went to hell.
I didn’t like that ending. It felt like it happened too quickly, with too much shoved into too few pages, and the aunt became even more of a caricature with no real personality or even personhood. It was like a bad mystery show, one that was made on a budget of $2 and a limited time to shoot. Plus, the end had a flashback sequence narrated by an omniscient observer that I completely hated– mostly because it was SO different from the rest of the book.
However! Despite the fact that I didn’t believe in the characters and hated the ending, I really enjoyed the story. It was super suspenseful, with some scary parts and really nice descriptions of the Irish countryside, and it had a great mystery. It moved really quickly and I wasn’t bored the whole time I read it.
Because I do place so much importance on characters, though, the awesome story wasn’t enough to up my rating from “Borrow it.” I’d definitely read another of Cecelia Ahern’s books, and it’s not like I think this one is a complete wash. I just wish the characters had been a bit more layered.
Basically: If you place importance on story more than characters, or if you don’t mind slightly unrealistic characters, then the story is enough to make this a really good book.
If you like: Gothic romances, magical realism, those true crime shows on TruTV, Lifetime movies with titles like “I Had My Sister’s Baby,” you’ll like this book.
They say a story loses something with each telling. If that is the case, this story has lost nothing, for it’s the first time it’s been told.
This story is one for which some people will have to suspend their disbelief. If this wasn’t happening to me, I would be one of those people. (Chapter 1)
Credit: Author photo lifted from her website.