Camden Pike has been grief-stricken since his girlfriend, Viv, died. Viv was the last good thing in his life: helping him rebuild his identity after a career-ending football injury, picking up the pieces when his home life shattered, and healing his pain long after the meds wore off. And now, he’d give anything for one more glimpse of her. But when Cam makes a visit to the site of Viv’s deadly car accident, he sees some kind of apparition. And it isn’t Viv.
The apparition’s name is Nina, and she’s not a ghost. She’s a girl from a parallel world, and in this world, Viv is still alive. Cam can’t believe his wildest dreams have come true. All he can focus on is getting his girlfriend back, no matter the cost. But things are different in this other world: Viv and Cam have both made very different choices, things between them have changed in unexpected ways, and Viv isn’t the same girl he remembers. Nina is keeping some dangerous secrets, too, and the window between the worlds is shrinking every day. As Cam comes to terms with who this Viv has become and the part Nina played in his parallel story, he’s forced to choose—stay with Viv or let her go—before the window closes between them once and for all.
-description and cover courtesy of Goodreads.
Atmospheric Analysis: Yes, this cover features the dubious ‘girl who may or may not be dead’ trope, but that doesn’t stop it being well-made and refreshing compared to most YA titles.
Planetary Class: Through To You got me thinking about genre. The plot hinges on what is essentially a form of magic, yet it feels more like SF because the story takes place in the real world and because the interdimensional hole is treated more as an inexplicable physical phenomenon than something supernatural. Apparently that makes all the difference.
So: ‘Multiverse SF’.
Viability Rating: I may have indicated a sentence ago that this book has a multiverse in it, and that people go from one ‘verse to the other using a hole in the air. What more do you need to know?
Mohs Scale: I’m never entirely sure where to rate books like this, since the ‘One Big Lie’ part of the SF is also the entirety of it. I guess it could either be a 4 or a 1 depending on the kind of mood you’re in.
Xenolinguistical Assessment: Cam’s voice is refreshingly realistic (OBLIGATORY PSA: teenagers swear), and the writing is fast-paced and readable.
Expanded Report: When I started Through To You, I was hoping for something like Imaginary Girls or Liar – a slow-burning novel that waits until you think you know what kind of book you’re dealing with before suddenly bringing out the speculative twist. But where those books go for subtlety and a slow build up, Through To You unwisely shows its hand within the first 20 pages and remains predictable for the next 250.
The setup is promising: Camden Pike loses his girlfriend Viv in a car accident, and two months later sees an apparition of a mysterious girl near the site of the crash. Thankfully, the girl turns out to not be Viv, although she does seem to know him. Cam eventually works out that she’s from a parallel world where Viv never died and begins going back and forth regularly.
I’d explain a bit more of the plot, but I’m afraid of giving away the entire thing. From that paragraph alone (or indeed, from the book’s blurb), you’ll likely be able to work out 90% of what happens. Through To You ends up feeling like a short novella stretched into a short novel. There just isn’t enough content here to justify the pagecount, and it doesn’t help that the plot is so predictable. I guessed every twist in the book long before any of them happened, and was sorely disappointed to find that it had nothing else up its sleeve.
The entire plot comes down to a protracted setup for a certain kind of love triangle, one that should be painfully familiar to readers of YA fiction. As always with this kind of thing, one corner of the triangle is so sparsely-written and unlikable that it becomes difficult to see how anyone could ever see them as a viable option. In this case, it’s Viv, which is a problem when Camden spends so long pining over her and declaring, in blatantly co-dependent fashion, that his entire life revolved around her. That the co-dependence is plot-relevant doesn’t necessarily make it any more interesting to read about, either.
But for all its faults, Through To You is built on a fascinating premise. The idea of stumbling into a slightly different version of the real world is eternally compelling when handled correctly, and Hainsworth does handle it about as well as anyone else I’ve read. This is not a case of one world being ‘good’ and the other ‘bad’. Both are complex and messy, and at no point did I wonder why Cam didn’t just stay permanently in one over the other.
Speaking of things being messy, Cam is also believably traumatized over the abrupt end of his high school football career from a bad leg injury, Viv’s death, and his parents’ break-up. He goes to see a therapist, he has mood swings, and he is implied to have been borderline suicidal at some point before the events of the book’s plot. He and Nina both feel as though they’ve lived genuine lives rather than existing in a void while they waited for the novel to begin.
Ultimately, Through To You is a quick and easy read that probably won’t leave you as satisfied as you thought it would based on the premise.