"Through to You," a 272-page debut novel by Emily Hainsworth, was sold in a "heated auction," as were the film rights, according to the publisher. International language rights were sold at auction or pre-empted. Those factors set a high bar for reader expectations, at least for those who follow such things. But does this book live up to them?
Eighteen-year-old Camden Pike, a high school senior, is mourning his girlfriend, Viv. Two months ago, she was killed when the car she was driving hit a utility pole. She'd reached down to pick up a cigarette lighter Cam had dropped while they were on their way to his house to sleep together.
Cam has recurring dreams about Viv, and in his grief, he spends more and more time alone, pushing away a friend and his former football coach. His lawyer mother works a lot, and his father left them.
Of course, Cam blames himself for the accident. Viv's stereotypical football-jock-bully ex-boyfriend also blames him. Cam is seeing a psychiatrist, and he frequently visits the site of Viv’s death, which was been made into a memorial with cards, stuffed animals, pictures, notes, and flowers.
During one such visit, he hears a girl call his name, but no one is there. The next time he goes, he sees a transparent girl through glowing green light. Cam thinks he's hallucinating, then he thinks the girl is a ghost. Before she disappears, she shows him the cigarette lighter Viv had bought for his birthday.
It turns out that the scene of the car accident is a portal that opens into another world. Let's call it Opposite World; it's not exact, but close enough. The girl's name is Nina, and she and Cam were friends in her world, although they've never met in his.
In Opposite World, the car accident had different results. It turns out Viv is alive in this world, but Nina tells him it's not a good idea for him to see her. Cam seeks Viv out anyway. Shocked to see him alive, Opposite World Viv eventually warms to him. But this Viv is different from his dead girlfriend, and it's all tied into Opposite World Cam's fate. Some readers likely will be able to predict the novel's twist and certain other plot points. When Nina tells Cam the portal is closing, he must make a decision whether to stay or to go.
The parallel world aspect puts the novel in the science fiction category, but it's more a set piece for the off-kilter romance and teenage angst. The lack of explanation for the portal didn't bother me as much as the characters' lack of wonder about it. This incredible thing has happened to Cam, and he's pouting because Opposite World Cam played football, went to dances, and didn't smoke.
As implied above, the novel's attitude toward sex is casual. At the beginning, Cam and Viv planned to sleep together, and in Opposite World, they also planned to sleep together. They don't in either scenario, but there is what we used to call in my day heavy petting, during which Viv strips to her underwear.
Additionally, the author chose cursing as part of Cam's characterization. The f-word appears three times in the first chapter alone. Other four-letter words make appearances as well. Perhaps the author thought her main character would come off as edgy by cursing so much. I'm not against profanity per se in stories, but it was distracting in this one.
The publisher's age recommendation is 14 and up; however, parents should be wary of the profanity and sexual situations. In fact, I personally did not find any redeeming value in this book that would make it worth reading for Christian teenagers.
Review copy supplied by the publisher.
La Shawn Barber is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Christian Research Journal, Christianity Today, Washington Examiner, and other publications. Visit her blog at http://lashawnbarber.com.
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