By Lauren James
Published 3 Sept 2015
Review copy from Walker Books
From the moment I heard about the concept of The Next Together, a time hopping romance set in four different periods centered around reincarnated versions of the same couple, I was hooked. Then I saw the absolutely jaw droppingly beautiful cover designed by Jack Noel and the need to have it in my hands, yesterday, grew all the more urgent. What Lauren James delivers is a brilliant, funny, romantic, perilous, unforgettable journey that fans of Fangirl to The Time Traveller’s Wife would die for.
Our leads, Katherine and Matthew, are destined to meet in every lifetime, born again and again in a variety of lives. Every time they meet, they (eventually) fall hopelessly in love. However time is against them, and some perilous force is working to separate them. Will losing the person you love many times over eventually destroy them both? How many times can death split them apart before the world is really saved? Will it be different the next time they are together?
At the heart of the novel is a timeless love story, literally. We get to see feelings develop between our leads again and again in a multitude of extremely satisfying ways. From the Lady and her Servant, the journalist and his scribe disguised as a boy, to an office romance conducted via email and notes pinned to a fridge and eventually university lab partners. That James makes each reiteration of this pairing unique and yet utterly believably the same is a mark of her considerable skill both as a writer and as a clever plotter.
James also peppers her book with some fantastic tongue in cheek pop culture references, to OITNB (Orange Is The New Black) fandom, a nod to Sarah Waters, plus historical research from a Crimean War journal to Bonnie Prince Charlie and the attempted siege of England from Scotland. The detail she puts into defining each period works brilliantly in tandem with some clever font use from Walker’s designers, ensuring the reader is never lost in time. From written diaries to tumblr posts, the media in which the story is conveyed sets the tone of the time.
Furthermore the mystery that pushes the plot along will keep you guessing and completely on your toes, as you sense danger is never too far away from Katie and Matthew. Embroiled in wars, conspiracies and interference from all sides, they race forwards determined to save the day, if not to save themselves, then their loved ones' futures!
James’ writing is full of all the joy of fan culture, and her characters’ enthusiasm is absolutely endearing.
If you loved Cath from Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl’s sass and verve you will absolutely fall in love with Katherine/Katie whose clever tongue delivers quips and ironic insight with no holds barred and a twinkle in her eye. Matthew as the sweetly devoted yet droll observer of Katie’s wit is equally loveable. It makes their mission all the more heart pounding as you fear they will face the same fate as their predecessors.
I am already super excited to read the next book in James' series, The Last Beginning, with a time travelling protagonist who is bound to become my next favourite.
The Next Together is a hilarious, heartfelt, tearjerker, fandom hug of a book that will no doubt garner a legion of adorers. My Quantum Leap, Time Traveller's Wife, Orphan Black, shameless Soulmate AU fic loving heart was in heaven!
Or as the me in another timeline would say...