Monday, November 9, 2015

Book Review: "An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes" by Randy Ribay

The state of so-called "young adult" fiction these days is so diverse and the incredible array of talented writers in this genre is really dazzling. As I've remarked many times, they certainly didn't have these kinds of books when I was growing up!

The one thing about YA fiction that sometimes puts a slight damper on my enjoyment is the precocious nature of the dialogue in many books. So many YA characters are wise beyond their years, sarcastic and proud of it, and ready with an insightful, sensitive, and/or cutting remark in a split second. And while this dialogue can make you gasp, and reach for a highlighter (or press the highlight key on your e-reader), sometimes it's all just too clever to be true, you know?

One of the reasons that I really enjoyed Randy Ribay's An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes, other than it just felt, well, sweet (and not in a bad way), was that the dialogue felt much more realistic than many other books in this genre. Not all of the characters are fully evolved emotionally or intellectually, and Ribay allows them to be flawed, to hurt each other intentionally and unintentionally, and if they're sensitive, it's because it works for that particular character.

Mari, Dante, Archie, and Sam are long-time friends who have been playing Dungeons & Dragons together for years. As they get ready for their senior year in high school, everyone's lives are in the midst of major turmoil, but none have really shared their problems with each other. Archie is struggling with the effects his parents' divorce is going to have on his life and his friendships, Mari is trying to decide whether to contact her biological mother, Dante wants to come out to his friends but faces ignorance from his family, and Sam's relationship with his girlfriend is on the skids.

At first, the book follows several days through each of the characters' eyes (so you see how two people view the same incident in a completely different way). And then, in an effort to help Sam (not to mention avoid their own problems), the four embark on a cross-country road trip, and find themselves in the midst of utter chaos, self-discovery, and the kind of adventure you can only experience when you're young and your whole life is ahead of you.

While the plot is familiar, and you may even have seen some specific incidents before (or you can see them coming), this is a tremendously engaging and charming book. Not all of the characters are likable, but you still root for them, and that is in large part to the love Ribay has for them, which comes across in his storytelling. This is a sweet book that may take you back to your high school days, but hopefully with none of the angst you might have experienced back then!

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