The Last Beginning

Last year I read Lauren James first novel, The Next Together, which is a story about a couple, Kate and Matt, who reincarnate throughout history. They’re constantly brought back together only to be ripped apart and killed at a young age, though in every life they live they help save the world from various disasters. In Kate and Matt’s 2040 timeline, Kate gives birth to a baby girl named Clove before she and Matt mysteriously disappears, leaving Clove to grow up with Matt’s brother, Tom. I found The Next Together to be a good novel and so I looked forward to getting all the answers from the numerous questions I had for this last book, which is about Clove. However, this was a huge disappointment and consider this your warning, I will spoil pretty much the entire book, or at least the big parts, in this review so if you want to avoid that, stop reading now. If not, these are the reasons for why I didn’t like The Last beginning.

Summing up Clove: she’s is sixteen, she loves coding, she’s gay, she doesn’t know that she’s adopted, her mum (Jen) and dad (Tom) work together at a university, building the world’s first time machine and Clove made a promise to herself when she was eleven that she would be the very first person to every travel in that machine. Now she’s just found out who her real parents are, she’s kissed her best friend, Meg, who did not like it and she’s gotten in a huge fight with Jen and Tom. Clove is desperate to find out what happened to her parents and when her family’s AI (yes, that’s a computer), Spart, tells her that he has found traces of her mother and father across history, Clove sees no other way to investigate than to use the time machine. It’s not legal for people to use it, so Clove breaks in the lab and goes on a trip anyway.

Now, I was told by the summery of this novel that Clove meets Ella, the love of her life, but that she could lose her because she might destroy the world while uncovering her parents secret of reincarnating. I had to stop midway through the novel to check the back of the book to remind myself what the story was about because I lost track of it. I thought that this, just like James’ first novel, would be good but this was nothing short of a disaster. At sixteen, Clove is still young but she’s also incredibly stupid, naïve and yes, stupid. She needs to use the time machine RIGHT NOW because she can only get into the lab with her key card until midnight. This is something she realizes two hours before the card stops working and so she hurries away without ever stopping to think for a single second about what time travel can do. This I find so weird because which kid does not know the simple rule of time travel? Never ever say anything about the future or it most certainly will change. Of course that’s exactly what she’s doing but it’s okay, because she says it to the Matt from 1745 and he just promise to not let anything change. Imagine her surprise when she comes back to her time, 2056, and finds the world not quite as she left it.

Like I said, she’s stupid and naïve. The first thing she says to 1745-Matt when she meets him again later is “You promised not to let anything change!” which only underlines how childish she is. She’s actually so stupid I had to stop every other page to roll my eyes and sigh heavily. The man and woman she grew up with are professors, building the time machine. How can she not have picked up anything about time travel from her parents? I mean, I assume they talked about their project at the dinner table. Either way, Clove did not pick any of that up and continued to wreak havoc on the world and throughout history. She also referred to an alternate timeline as an “alternate dimension” which is two very different things.  And this is something I can’t for my life understand: after Clove returns from her first trip, back to 1745, she’s changed the timeline so much that she doesn’t even exist anymore. That means that she’s slowly fading away (surprisingly slowly, I’m talking like a day here which makes no sense) but anyway, she’s fading away and needs to travel back, only problem is that the time machine is not working. She needs code and neither she nor Jen and Tom has it so Clove wishes for a future self to send it for her and this also happens. My question is, how can a future Clove send the code to her when she’s… being erased from the history right at that moment?

Something that bothers me a great deal is how Clove kept doing these stupid things, acting stupid and yes, just being all-around stupid and yet everyone around her acted like she was so smart and she did so many good and great things and she was just amazing, really. Kate and Matt are thrilled to meet her and Jen and Tom loves her so much. And Ella, of course, is so in love with Clove that she sees no wrong in anything Clove does. After the awkward kiss with Meg and a quick make-up chat, Cloves best friend just disappears from the story altogether, though you can still tell that Meg thinks Clove is great. So it seems like however stupid, naïve or reckless Clove is everyone still looks at her like she’s the most intelligent person alive.

Throughout the novel pictures of maps, drawings and so forth is shown in the book, along with chat conversations and emails between Clove and Ella after 2057 and forward. I have no idea why this is even in here. Is that only to remind me that it’s okay, they will get together and everything will work itself out in the end? I can’t tell but it felt so unnecessary, especially since these parts actually spoiled several things, like the fact that Ella was a time traveller herself. The story overall is boring. It starts of kind of slow and never really speeds up, even when Clove travels for the first time. When Matt is broken out of prison the most exciting thing that happens is when Clove trip that one guard so they can escape in the very last moment. It was just so dull and that, along with the protagonist being so horribly bad made for an awful book.

This novel reminds me of Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier, only that story is way more fun while The Last Beginning is just a snoozefest. I found so many wrongs and questionable situations in it and I can’t for my life understand how something as good as The Next Together turned in to this. It was awful in every way and I wish I’d never read it. Do yourself a favour and stay away from it.