Claudia Gray-A Thousand Pieces of You

Themes Explored:  inter-dimensional travel, physics, family, love, relationships, longing, father-daughter bond,  adventure, science fiction, alternate realities, reality, technology, jealously, death, science, genius, attraction, intelligence, drug abuse, fate, destiny, corporate espionage, intrigue, consciousness

Synopsis: Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their groundbreaking achievements. Their most astonishing invention, called the Firebird, allows users to jump into multiple universes—and promises to revolutionize science forever. But then Marguerite’s father is murdered, and the killer—her parent’s handsome, enigmatic assistant Paul— escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite refuses to let the man who destroyed her family go free. So she races after Paul through different universes, always leaping into another version of herself. But she also meets alternate versions of the people she knows—including Paul, whose life entangles with hers in increasingly familiar ways. Before long she begins to question Paul’s guilt—as well as her own heart. And soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is far more sinister than she expected. (Adapted from Goodreads)

A-Thousand-Pieces-of-You

Review: Have you ever wondered what path your life would take if you changed just one decision? Or, how you would look in different time periods? What if you could live a life that was both eerily similar yet vastly different from the one you live now? Claudia Gray’s A Thousand Pieces of You is the first installment in a planned trilogy about inter-dimensional travel. The second novel, Ten Thousand Skies Above You, came out on November 3, 2015. The basic premise behind the series is that some genius physicists have created a way to travel between inter-dimensional realities. Multiple realities exist, each one containing the same people living out similar lives in slightly different worlds. For instance, in some realities technological advancements have been slower while in others technology vastly exceeds what we currently possess. Or the climate is drastically different. Fundamentals do not change. Your parents will be the same in all dimensions, though life circumstances will vary. This idea of jumping between realities and witnessing how your life could be is an intriguing idea. However, Gray’s narrative cannot decide if it is an inter-dimensional mystery or a star-crossed romanced. Most of the novel deals with the romantic element.

Marguerite Caine is the daughter of two brilliant physicists. Constantly surrounded by her parents and equally brilliant graduate students, Marguerite feels insecure about her own intelligence. Preferring art over hard science, Marguerite finds herself questioning her intelligence. However, she manages to catch the eyes of both Theo and Paul, her parents’ two brilliant graduate students. Both men are drastically different and inspire different feelings in Marguerite. However, her love triangle takes a momentary break when her father, Henry Caine, is mysteriously murdered and Paul leaves without a trace. Using two Firebirds, devices designed for inter-dimensional travel, Theo and Marguerite embark on a reality bending journey to find out the truth. Each dimension brings Marguerite closer to finding out the truth behind Dr. Caine’s murder and deciding which young man wins her heart.

Never before have two physics graduate students been described as jaw dropping beautiful. Theo is the gorgeous wild child with brains and a quick wit. Paul is the strong and silent Russian with the body of an Olympic athlete. And, of course, both grown men are interested in the enigmatic and beautiful 17 year old Marguerite Caine. I clearly remember being romantically pursued by graduate students when I was seventeen. Just kidding.  What is the obsession with pairing young teenage girls with grown men in their later twenties? I do not care how smart or flirty the teenager is, any self-respecting man would want an intellectual equal of a similar age.  I think Young Adult fiction is a great genre; some of the most imaginative narratives I have read came out of YA. However, I am incredibly tired of these ridiculous love triangles made up of a young girl and drastically older men. There is a huge difference between seventeen and twenty-five.

The story is told in first person narration by Marguerite. The novel begins with Marguerite believing Paul is responsible for her father’s death and that she must kill him to exact revenge. While this is a great hook to draw the reader into the story, the decision to kill him seems a little over dramatic. Even Marguerite recognizes that such an action is problematic. Killing Paul in another dimension kill two people, one of whom lives in that other dimension but who is innocent of the crime committed in another dimension.  Other than this twisted moral reasoning, Marguerite is an underwhelming character.  There is not a lot of depth. She is an artist and is mostly silent. And she has a fierce loyalty to her father.  Gray never really explores the family dynamics at play and why Marguerite is clearly more dedicated to one parent. The sum total of Marguerite’s character: artsy, silent, and a strong stubbornness streak. Overall, her character felt flat and rather uninspiring.

Then there are Theo and Paul, also known as hot scientist numbers one and two. There is a love triangle in this book, which seems like standard fare in most YA novels. However, this is a rather one-sided affair. Most of the time the narrative is teasing which man Marguerite will pick, neither of the men really express or show their love to her. Her choice becomes remarkably obvious by the third dimension. My main problem with Theo and Paul are a lack of character development. Paul is a silent Russian with an outstanding intellect and family problems. Theo is rather wild and slightly full of himself. And that was the entirety of their character. I think a cardboard cutout of Chris Hemsworth would possess a similar level of depth as these two, supposedly, intriguing guys.

Terrible character development aside, there were some aspects I enjoyed. Gray does a fantastic job imagining alternate realities. There are different rules, regulations, and societal structures for each dimension. The aquatic dimension felt rather unrealistic. But, then again, the point is that anything can happen in parallel dimensions. In these parallel universes Marguerite could be leading any kind of life. I enjoyed the differences in how she interacts with her family in different dimensions. In the second dimension, for instance, she has a brother and a sister, though she only has one sister in her “real universe”. Gray depicts several different kinds of parental and sibling love.

Narrative wise, Gray does a good job of creating and maintaining suspense throughout the story. There are several twists and turns. However, I found myself not really caring about the characters by the end. Some of the twists are rather heavy handed and realizable from a mile away. I wish Gray had focused more on the repercussions of inter-dimensional travel over teenage romance. Instead of being an awesome exploration of the limits of physics and the weirdness of meeting several different variations of yourself, the book went the whole “does he or doesn’t he love me” route. The novel also suffered from lackadaisical editing. However, the cover art is fantastic. Overall, this is a unique twist on star-crossed romance but do not expect anything genre defining.

A Thousand Pieces of You, HarperTeen, 2014, ISBN 9780062278968

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