Evee is a promising young artist and the governor’s daughter in a city where censorship is everywhere and security is everything. When a fire devastates her exhibition–years in the making–her dreams of attending an elite art institute are dashed. She’s struggling to find inspiration when she meets Danny.
Raised in a foster home, Danny’s life has always been full of hurt and hardship–until a glitch in the universe changes everything. Suddenly Danny is living in a home he’s never seen with the parents he’s never known. It’s like he’s a new Danny–but this alternate self has secrets–ties to an underground anarchist group that have already landed him in hot water. When he starts to develop feelings for Eevee, he’s even more disturbed to learn that he might have started the fire that ruined her work.
As Danny sifts through clues from his past and Eevee attempts to piece together her future, they uncover a secret that’s bigger than both of them…And together, they must correct the breach between the worlds before it’s too late.
Over the summer I’ve read a ton load of YA and New Adult novels that circulated around the same boring concept: girl and guy are going through a tough time in their lives, girl and guy meet one another and find out that each other is their soul mate, girl and guy go through some hardships that fracture their relationship, girl and guy find a way around said fracture, they reunite and live happily ever after. Although While You Were Gone sticks to some of the clichéd concepts aforementioned, the author molds the novel into something spectacular by adding a bigger conflict than just whether or not the two characters will be together in the end. Instead, readers fear for the lives of some of the characters and are kept on edge about what is really happening.
Perhaps the best part of this novel would have to be the idea of alternate universes. Danny Ogden is pushed back and forth through his version of Phoenix and another that is ruled under a kind of dictatorship. This “Government” that resides in the alternate Phoenix is one that constantly monitors the activities of its inhabitants by not-so-well-hidden mics and cameras everywhere. It also operates in a post-apocalyptic world where anywhere outside of Phoenix is too far and dangerous to drive to. Also, in this world, Phoenix–apparently–had engaged in a war with Mexico and agreed on a treaty. Thinking about it now, this book reminds me a lot of the TV series Wayward Pines; Government in supposedly post-apocalyptic world, cameras and people listening in on your conversations everywhere you go.
Unfortunately, Danny’s version of Phoenix isn’t any better. In his Phoenix, he’s a lowlife who couldn’t care less about his future, his parents are dead and there’s no one who he can count on, and he gets constantly pounded on by one of the guys in charge of the orphanage. However, he gets sucked into this wormhole (or as one of the characters called it, “The Time Vortex of Doom”) and he realizes that he’s in an alternate universe where his parents aren’t dead, he has friends and a girl who loves him and somewhat of a normal life.
Despite all the unique characters in While You Were Gone, I didn’t feel a personal connection to any of them, but I still enjoyed reading about how they planned to reveal the lies the Government shamefully hid from the public and take down the evil Skylar programme that would monitor the everyday activities of every individual in the small town. I was glued to the pages when the characters had to infiltrate DART (the institution that worked under the Government) and fully shutdown Skylar. I tried to imagine living in a world where any form of art that is expressive is looked down upon and cringed. I sat in my reading chair (you must invest in one of these beauties) and watched as the author rolled out the answers to the mysteries that had bugged me since the beginning of the novel.
There are only two things about this book that I didn’t like. One, the fact that the ending seemed a little rushed. I felt like the author was probably on a deadline that she had to meet and summarized the ending of the story as best as she could. Also, I thought that the mysteries took forever to be revealed, and I got more than impatient waiting for the answers. Regardless of that, While You Were Gone is an unforgettable summer read that anyone who enjoys reading sci-fi, romance, and Slice of Life stories would love.
About the Author
Amy K. Nichols has been crafting stories for as long as she can remember. She is the author of YA science fiction novel Now That You’re Here, to be published by Knopf December 9, 2014. The follow-up, While You Were Gone, will be published in 2015. She is mentored by award-winning crime novelist James Sallis and lives on the edge of the Sonoran desert with her husband and children. Amy is a member of SCBWI and SFWA, as well as the Class of 2K14 debut authors. Visit her online at http://www.amyknichols.com.
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