The moment I found out about Lauren James’ The Next Together
I was certain that I had to read it. It’s a story about love and reincarnation and it got me excited right away. I actually got it for Christmas but didn’t pick it up until the start of February for no other reason than that I wanted to have it to look forward to for a little while longer. Eventually, however, I couldn’t contain myself and jumped into it with high, high hopes and I’m glad to say that they held up.
Katherine and Matthew have lived together and loved each other in multiple lifetimes. They’re destined to be reborn and find each other, only to be faced with big problems that it seems only they can solve only to be ripped apart by death yet again. They’ve lived during the siege of Carlisle, been to the Crimean War and worked in laboratories in 2019 and 2039. Every time they die they’re brought back but no matter how hard they think, and no matter that they’ve had 300 years to figure out why and who brings them back, that’s still the biggest mystery of all. Maybe they’ll get to live peacefully together in one lifetime without having to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.
I was hyped when I first heard about this novel. I like the idea of reincarnation but haven’t read a book about it before. My hopes were high, as I said, and James managed to meet them. It’s her debut novel and a pretty good one at that. It’s filled with fun banter and exciting moment and, despite the fact that some parts are extremely serious, it’s still not too heavy.
James introduces us to pretty few characters – the biggest are obviously Katherine and Matthew and for the most part the story centers only around them. Occasionally other characters appear, such as Katherine’s aunt in 1745 or an army general in 1854. Bigger roles falls to Katherine’s two grandmothers in 2039, along with Matthew’s older brother Tom. But for the most part it’s all about Katherine and Matthew and their quest to, apparently, save the world time and time again.
Katherine is quirky and has a unique sense of humor. It wasn’t always something that was my cup of tea but she did make me laugh at times. In some parts of the novel her personality annoyed me however, she was a bit too much, but rather in very real way, like an actually human being that I would find too talkative, she wasn’t a bad character. Matthew on the other hand is more serious but certainly had moments when he lit up the pages too. Mostly he’s pretty chivalry and I kind of liked it. He’s nerdy and a bit of a geek but he always takes care of Katherine and both of them seems very real and believable. It was easy to understand them, easy to follow along in both the story and their conversations and easy to get to know them. It’s a big story, a heavy theme, but they carry the book on their backs together and are, in my opinion, perfect for this novel.
The side-characters aren’t in the story very much, as I said, it’s mostly about Katherine and Matthew and even when they’re around other people they aren’t really incorporated. The two grandmothers, a married couple, along with Matthew’s brother Tom has the biggest roles of the side-characters. I liked that James had a homosexual couple in her story and I liked how she described Tom as a famous internet hacker in one moment and a very real, and, in Katherine’s words, disgusting guy the next. The grandmothers wasn’t around very much but Tom was and he, just like Katherine and Matthew, seemed awfully real, so James has definitely proven that she can write believable characters.
Something that bothered me however, was that neither Katherine’s nor Matthew’s parents really made an appearance. They’re mentioned throughout the novel, during certain lifetimes Katherine is an orphan, but in 2039, which is their “right now” lifetime, they’re only background noise. Katherine never actually speaks to them, she only mentions that she did. Matthew’s parents makes some kind of appearance but they’re not really there, either. They’re not officially presented to the reader and that bothered me a lot but the more I thought about it the more I realized that it seems like James has done this for some reason I yet can’t figure out, so I hope this will be revealed in the sequel (which I didn’t know there was until I came to the end, I thought it was a stand-alone the entire time I was reading).
Speaking of the end. I’m as annoyed as the next person with cliffhangers but I don’t really let it bother me since it’s what’s to be expected when you read a series. I was extremely curious to the end of The Next Together (so much, in fact, that it took me a week to read the first hundred pages because I immediately realized when I started reading it that this was a special book and that I wanted to take my time with it, but when I came past around 125 pages I was so curious that I finished the entire thing in one sitting) but was awfully annoyed when I finished the novel. It has something of a cliffhanger, but not just that. It’s more of a huge bomb left to explode in your lap when you close the last page. I didn’t fully understand everything and I think that’s James’ point, which made me even madder. It was about this time that I realized there was a sequel and calmed down a bit, but then I saw that the next book won’t be out until November this year and I got annoyed again. There were too many loose threads and too much time for me to guess at what’s going to happen until I can find out and it bothers me in a way that I haven’t been by the end of a novel for some time now.
Despite the awful ending (which was only awful because it ended without me getting the answers to all my questions, otherwise it was too bad!) it’s a wonderful book. I really enjoyed it and it has a cool layout as well. The cover is absolutely gorgeous and the book is split up in four different lifetimes which entwine with another very well. Different lifetimes have different fonts and Katherine’s name is different in all so that you more easily can keep the lives apart. At the top of every page is a timeline which point’s out the exact year the story is at that page and there’s also excerpts from Katherine’s diaries, from newspapers or articles online as well as a few maps. It makes it much easier to keep track of the different lifetimes and it’s fun and different reading parts of the story from the view of diary entries.
I am very much looking forward to the sequel and I think this is a novel that you really should give a chance. It’s part love story, part action-packed thriller and it’s served with a big scoop of humor. It might surprise you to be more than just a story about a boy and a girl, destined to meet and fall in love with each other in life after life.