Author: Cristin Bishara
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books
Suddenly, Ruby can access completely different realities, each containing variations of her life—if things had gone differently at key moments. The windshield wiper missing her mother’s throat…her big brother surviving his ill-fated birth…her father never having met Willow. Her ideal world—one with everything and everyone she wants most—could be within reach. But is there such a thing as a perfect world? What is Ruby willing to give up to find out?
The story follows 15-year-old Ruby, who has been forced to move to a small town in Ohio when her father remarries. Life in this new town is not all she could hope for, especially since Ruby had to leave behind a budding romance with her good friend George and because her new step-sister Kandy is giving Cinderella’s evil step-sisters a run for their money. So, when Ruby finds a portal to alternate realities within an old mysterious tree, she starts to wonder if perhaps she wouldn’t be better off in one of them – especially if she can find the utopian reality she’s always dreamed of!
- Similarities between realities. I was sometimes perplexed at how similar the alternate realities that Ruby experienced were. Often there were rather major differences in Ruby’s alternate lives and I didn’t quite understand how they (usually) led to her living in this same little town in Ohio (especially since she had grown up in California in her original reality). It seemed a little too convenient and just felt like a plot device at times. It did, however, bring up the question of destiny vs. choice, which I thought was very thought-provoking (see Destiny vs. Choice under “What I Loved”).
- Kandy. Ruby’s step-sister, Kandy, had some major issues in almost every reality that Ruby experienced and I wish that this would have been addressed a little better in Ruby’s actual reality. I kept wondering why Kandy’s mother was blind to her issues. I did really like that Ruby gained some insight into her stepsister in those other realities (especially one in particular), but I wish that there had been a bit more resolution (or at least hints of impending resolution) to Kandy’s story in Ruby’s actual reality – that girl needed help!
- The science. It was obvious that Bishara really did quite a bit of research about string theory and parallel universes. She even gives references at the end of the book! I really appreciated that Ruby questioned (and understood) the science behind what was happening to her. Which brings me to my next point…
- Ruby. I loved that Ruby was a truly intellectual character. She was extremely interested in science and saw life through that filter – she often thought of things in scientific terms. I’ve actually read a few reviews where people said that they didn’t like this about her, but I really enjoyed it! I loved that her character was consistent and had a very distinct world view – it set her apart from all of the other heroines that I’ve been reading about lately. And while I didn’t agree with every one of Ruby’s choices, I still really liked her as a person and I could certainly empathize with her as she tried to find her “ideal world”. I was extremely invested in Ruby as a character and I was really hoping that she could find what she was looking for – not necessarily in an alternate reality, but in her own life!
- Destiny vs. choice. While I wasn’t always convinced about how Ruby always ended up in the same little town in Ohio, it did bring up some really interesting questions about how much of her life was destiny and how much of it was based on choices. Considering the scientific background given in the book, you wouldn’t expect destiny to play a part – you would expect it to be all very scientifically explainable, but that wasn’t necessarily always true. There were people and places that recurred in Ruby’s alternate lives, no matter what changes had occurred in the past (at least in most cases). I enjoyed pondering what parts of Ruby’s life were truly destiny and what parts could be changed – and how drastic the changes in the past needed to be before Ruby’s destiny was actually changed.
- The excitement. One thing that I really wasn’t expecting was the sense of danger that occurs toward the end of the book. I found myself holding my breath, wondering what poor Ruby was going to experience next, and I thought that the climax of the book was extremely dramatic.