Monday, November 25, 2013

Review: 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil

Goodreads Summary: Josie Byrne's life is spiraling out of control. Her parents are divorcing, her boyfriend Nick has grown distant, and her physics teacher has it in for her. When she's betrayed by the two people she trusts most, Josie thinks things can't get worse.
Until she starts having dreams about a girl named Jo. Every night at the same time—3:59 a.m.
Jo's life is everything Josie wants: she's popular, her parents are happily married, and Nick adores her. It all seems real, but they're just dreams, right? Josie thinks so, until she wakes one night to a shadowy image of herself in the bedroom mirror – Jo. 
Josie and Jo realize that they are doppelgängers living in parallel universes that overlap every twelve hours at exactly 3:59. Fascinated by Jo's perfect world, Josie jumps at the chance to jump through the portal and switch places for a day.
But Jo’s world is far from perfect. Not only is Nick not Jo's boyfriend, he hates her. Jo's mom is missing, possibly insane. And at night, shadowy creatures feed on human flesh.
By the end of the day, Josie is desperate to return to her own life. But there’s a problem: Jo has sealed the portal, trapping Josie in this dangerous world. Can she figure out a way home before it’s too late?
From master of suspense Gretchen McNeil comes a riveting and deliciously eerie story about the lives we wish we had – and how they just might kill you.
Goodreads / Amazon

Genre: Young adult, science fiction
Pages: 368
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Source: Library

First Line: "Josie crouched behind the photon laser module and aligned it with the beam splitter at the other end of the lab table."

Favorite Quote: "She didn't believe in coincidence, or deja vu, or any of that crap. This was a pattern and the one thing she'd had instilled in her since childhood by her two scientific parents is that patterns are not random. They always exists for a reason."


When I first saw this book, I was beyond excited. It sounded amazing and there was no question that I would be reading it sometime soon after it came out. The only other novel I've read by this author is Ten, and though I had a few complaints about it, overall I enjoyed the story and thought it was a pretty good mystery. However, I can't say I'm as happy with 3:59. There were bits of it that I liked, but mostly it was an execution fail for me. What's really frustrating is that this could have been a book I loved with lots of tweaking. I was actually thinking of giving it a higher rating than what I settled on, but when I thought back to all the bad stuff that bothered me I just couldn't bring myself to do it. The cover is pretty cool, though. It's definitely something that would get my attention if I was just browsing in the bookstore. That aside, I think this review will be easier to do in list format because it seems easier (and because I love lists).

Things I Liked:

- The concept! There's been a lot of young adult books coming out lately about parallel universes, but this sounded different and intriguing. Whoever wrote the summary did a really good job.

- McNeil is talented with giving her writing kind of a creepy vibe, and though I was never flat out scared in 3:59, I was a little on edge. Because of this, I honestly didn't have much trouble going back to the book, because I was interested enough to find out the ending despite my qualms.

Things I Disliked:

- All the science. I realize that there's going to have to be some kind of scientific explanation to make everything seem realistic. I appreciated somewhat that McNeil decided to include some of this, but most of the time everything went over my head completely. Things are explained on a more basic level because of Madison, so that helped, but still. I had no idea what they were talking about with electrons and tons of other science lingo. Since I was annoyed, I kind of skimmed those sections.

- Josie. Don't get me wrong, there were times when I really felt bad for her. Her boyfriend decides to cheat on her because she's "been distant lately" (her parents are going through a divorce). But after the break up, she just acted way too clingy. She goes to his track practice to spy on him while he's with the girl he cheated with. And much later she contemplates staying in the parallel universe with the second Nick even though there are freaking monsters that will eat you when they wake up at night.

- All of the side characters. None of them really felt fleshed out at all. Madison was the crappy best friend backstabber. Penelope was the science geek. Nick was the dreamy love interest. Those other dudes he was with in the warehouse in the parallel universe were basically there to be there, and so I had a really hard time finding anyone in this book to care about. When the characters were sad or angry I was mostly indifferent, and that is not how I want to be when I'm reading a book.

- The insta-love. I realize that Josie would immediately have an attraction to the second Nick, but after knowing him for a few days, she decides that he's a much better guy for her and she connects with him in a way that she didn't with the first Nick. Well, the first Nick cheated on her. The second Nick had nothing to live up to, seriously.

- After a bunch of crap goes down towards the climax of the book, a man is brutally murdered by the Nox (which is the name of those monsters). His skin has been pecked off and lots of body parts have been detached. Josie and Nick are forced to be in the same room when it happens, because if they move they might be attacked as well. Sounds pretty horrifying, right? But almost immediately after it happens they start making out pretty heavily on the ground, and only stop when Josie accidentally brushes a dead foot. I don't know if the author intended for that scene to be romantic, but all I could picture was all the blood and bone in the same room as them. It was disgusting.

- This is probably what bothered me the most: the sheer convenience of everything. When Josie needs to get some information, she goes with Nick on a tour of the top secret government facility where's being kept under the ruse of Nick looking for a job there. She easily convinces one of the employees to let her up to the fourth floor where she is not supposed to be. She then gets to go back by herself because she "left her purse in the bathroom." If one of the characters needed something, then bam. One of them would just happen to have a friend or relative that made getting it possible. And when Josie has need of a big laser, she asks her fake dad to steal it from his workplace and he basically agrees with no issue even though he could be charged with treason if caught. Josie really should have seen a red flag after that conversation, because it was not realistic at all.

- One of the villains of the story is definitely Dr. Cho, but she is dealt with way too easily after Nick and Josie's final confrontation with the bad guy. She's mentioned, but you'd think after her ominous phone call she'd be a little harder get rid of. I also didn't really understand why Jo was suddenly helping them after Josie pulled her back into her world. I mean, she left everything to be with her mom (which I kind of understand given the fact that he dad was evil). The only reason she'd have to go back would be to get the vial, but I don't she ever did. In fact, I'm not even sure what happened to it.

So even though there were a few redeeming qualities found within 3:59, I don't think I could ever recommend it in good conscience because there were simply too many things I didn't like about it. And that's really a shame because I was looking forward to it so much. Despite my disappointment with this, I'll still pick up McNeil's next book because like I said before, Ten was good.

2 stars

Books in this series:

Other Opinions: 

It's A Book Life
Me, My Shelf and I
Lose Time Reading


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