ARC Review: Relativity by Cristin Bishara


title:  Relativity 

author Cristin Bishara 

pages: 289

format: Paperback 

isbn/asin: 978-0802734686

buy it: Amazon  Goodreads  B&N

rating: 5/5 [in the genre] or 7/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Fans of R.J. Anderson (Ultraviolet and Quicksilver), Heather Anastasiu (Glitch), Doctor Who, and light, fun sci-fi.  

My Ratings Explained

If Ruby Wright could have her way, her dad would never have met and married her stepmother Willow, her best friend George would be more than a friend, and her mom would still be alive. Ruby knows wishes can't come true; some things just can't be undone. Then she discovers a tree in the middle of an Ohio cornfield with a wormhole to nine alternative realities.

Suddenly, Ruby can access completely different realities, each containing variations of her life—if things had gone differently at key moments. The windshield wiper missing her mother’s throat…her big brother surviving his ill-fated birth…her father never having met Willow. Her ideal world—one with everything and everyone she wants most—could be within reach. But is there such a thing as a perfect world? What is Ruby willing to give up to find out?

the basics
It's pretty funny.  While I was reading this, my boyfriend was reading Dragon's Egg by Robert L. Forward, which also deals with wormholes and is one of the most scientifically dense science-fiction books ever written.  Don't worry--Relativity is not that dense.  Bishara definitely did her research about string theory and wormholes, and she explains them in a way that's easy-to-understand and plot-relevant.  And the plot!  Oh boy.  I was hooked.  Each universe has something crazy going on and it's no fun jaunt; Ruby definitely comes out worse for the wear.  It's definitely an exciting genre plot, but Bishara uses it to explore deeper issues:  is there a perfect universe?  What does it mean to be you?  When one little thing changes, how big are the effects?  Ruby is also a great nerdy character and very sympathetic.  She also goes through a lot of change and growth.  The ending isn't insanely happy, but it's content--my favorite kind.  I thought the pacing sped up too much towards the end, but most of the book was well-done and exciting.  

plot . 4/5
The plot gets points off for its final third.  It felt like there should have been either less or more.  The first two third were paced perfectly.  We get enough set-up to justify the plot, and then a lot of detail as Ruby jumps between universes.  We get a thorough view of each one and each one contributes substantially to the story progression.  Then we hit the climax and it seems like Bishara wanted to do too much before the end.  The last few universes are cursory and barely-there.  And Ruby's change of heart seems too quick and not as believable as I'd have hoped.  I think Bishara would have done better to pick one final universe and explore that more--or give Ruby more time at the turning point to struggle with her decision.  As it is, it seems rushed.  However, if you take it as it is, the ending is pretty cool and open-ended, which I liked.  It's young adult science-fiction that goes deeper than the cool techie stuff. There's also a touch of really adorable romance.  

concept . 5/5
I love the idea of string theory and wormholes.  I mean, I'm a Doctor Who fan.  But it's funny--I've always watched more sci-fi than I've read.  Maybe it's because sci-fi wasn't as big in young adult for a while.  Now it's back with a vengeance, and Bishara is here to stay.  She incorporates a lot of good, hard science and real scientific figures into an exciting plot.  She also takes really neat concepts and makes them easy to understand for those of us who aren't theoretical physicists.  The concept of multiple parallel universes is a great way to explore a lot of deeper issues.  Bishara uses them to their full advantage, while also just making it really cool.  

characters . 5/5
I don't think there was one I didn't buy.  Ruby is annoying at times, but you understand why.  She's also clever, tragic, and resourceful.  I found her instantly loveable, even when I wanted to smack her.  The side characters don't all get a lot of screen time, but Bishara knows how to fit a lot of characterization into a small space.  They feel real.  Kandy, the villain, is more than just a flat bitch.  Ruby learns more about her and finds real reasons behind her cruelty.  And even cooler, the fact that we get multiple versions of every character means that Bishara gets a lot of time to explore what each character is like in the real world and how they differ in the other universes.  Layers and layers!  I loved it.  

style . 5/5
I'm actually annoyed at myself, because I dog-eared so many fun quotes and forgot to write them down before I mailed it out.  Bishara is a great young adult writer.  She knows how to combine some pretty phrasing and lush description with clear, concise language.  It makes for an easy read that doesn't have a lot of useless language, which is a problem in so many other books.  I wouldn't say it's incredibly memorable, but it's good for sure.  And, I think, less technical than a lot of other science-fiction, so it feels less scary.  

mechanics . 5/5
Nothing to complain about.  Bishara has a good grasp of grammar and mechanics.  No unnecessary spoon scenes here!       

take home message
A clever science-fiction that uses multiple universes to explore deep issues about the tiny turning points that make us who we are.  

Note: I received this copy through Around the World ARC Tours.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.

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