Robin Brande takes readers into a new dimension—literally—with her YA sci-fi, INTO THE PARALLEL. While various elements of the story, such as plot and characters, don’t feel as tight as her YA contemporary novels, INTO THE PARALLEL is nevertheless an enjoyable story that draws only lightly on advanced scientific concepts.
The majority of INTO THE PARALLEL unfolds through dialogue: Audie talking to Hallie and trying to figure out what’s going on, Audie talking to the professor, Audie lying to her mom…really, the amount of information that’s revealed through stationary dialogue is rather disconcerting, as you realize that there’s not much going on in terms of plot. Due to the talky nature of the story, little seems to be at stake: about halfway through the story, I found myself wondering, okay, so are we ever going to get to the gritty conflict? Alas, I felt like no such thing ever appeared—INTO THE PARALLEL was really just an exploration of a new situation, with little else driving the story.
The characters all seem to suffer from various symptoms of character flatness. Audie is a pretty straightforward protagonist, but sometimes she bugged me because her thoughts and behavior were at odds with her supposed intelligence. Honestly? This is one girl who will not be getting into Columbia, her dream school—and if she does, I will be tempted to chalk it up to fictional wish fulfillment (sigh). Hallie’s unwillingness to draw attention to herself and her accomplishments is at least consistent and admirable, if a little boring. As for Audie’s love interests, well, not much distinguishes them either. I feel like the character development relied too much on dialogue, at the expense of actually allowing readers’ connections to the characters, and the characters’ connections to one another, to unfold more naturally.
INTO THE PARALLEL tackles the fascinating possibilities that quantum mechanics and string theory offer, but it does so in a way that is rather elementary: in fact, the story could’ve done without the astrophysics element and still worked. Therefore, I’d say that it is a less sci-fi and more just a series of events that unfolds in parallel universes. Nevertheless, I give Robin Brande credit for all her research into this fascinating topic, and for writing a killer of a cliffhanger ending that, fortunately, can be immediately remedied, as the sequel is now out online. Will I be reading it? Hmm. Perhaps. INTO THE PARALLEL was lacking in a number of elements that are important to me in an enjoyable and well-written story, but everyone has those few authors they make exceptions for, and Robin’s one of them for me.