“Ida” by Alison Evans

My last review here was super long, like 1200+ words kind of long. I’m sorry about that. I guess I rambled more than I realised — and that was verbatim from my Goodreads review, just to put its length in perspective, too. This one’s a bit shorter, you’ll be glad to know.

ida

Publication date: January 30th, 2017

First off, I have to say that I did enjoy Ida. It was somewhat brain-bending, as are all stories involving parallel universes and/or time travel, and there were certain aspects that confused me, but I enjoyed it. However, it wasn’t what I was expecting, mainly because the blurb is very misleading.

The blurb not only informs us that Ida can travel to parallel universes and re-make any decision, but also suggests that she knows this too, because it talks about her slow realisation that she might not be in control. However, that’s not actually the case. She believes her power is more like time travel, and it’s only in the course of the book (after things start to go wrong) that she learns about the parallel universe aspect of things, courtesy of a mysterious ageless person tasked with stopping her from switching too often because it’s causing problems.

The book starts in quite an odd place, therefore — we have a character who knows and is familiar with using their power (as opposed to discovering it and its capabilities during the book, which is more common), and who has had time to get used to it but not to tell anyone else, but who doesn’t know exactly what’s going on. Ida doesn’t have the answers, but she’s also been doing this long enough to stop questioning it, which can be a little bit confusing for the reader, who knows this isn’t a normal state of affairs.

Moreover, since the blurb had given me some important pieces of information (i.e. that she was actually switching universes), I felt like I knew more than Ida did, and while dramatic irony of that sort can sometimes be effective, here it was a little frustrating as it was less that I felt I’d been let in on a secret, and more that major plot points had been spoiled for me. The doppelgangers that Ida starts to encounter are frightening to her because she doesn’t understand why they exist; since the blurb had effectively told me this, I didn’t find them as dramatic.

Going back to the mysterious ageless person tasked with stopping her from switching… that was one of the aspects where I would have liked to know more. There were hints at an organisation who dealt with this kind of thing, and the suggestion that Ida wasn’t the only one with this power had the potential to be extremely interesting, but I didn’t feel it was really followed up as much as it could have been. Ultimately, these facts were only the catalyst for Ida to find her way back to the right strand of her life, rather than a fully developed concept in their own right.

What I was expecting from the book was for Ida to realise early on what was happening, and for the plot to revolve around her journey to fix the problem. In many ways, that’s not the case: the book is the story of her figuring it out, instead, and her realisation does most of the work towards fixing it. Perhaps because of this, I was a little bit impatient at times, expecting to move on to the next stage of plot and not realising that what I was reading WAS the main plot. Again, this was largely due to the dissonance between my expectations based on the blurb, and what the book was actually about.

One thing I haven’t mentioned yet but should, though, is that this book has several queer characters, including a bisexual protagonist, her trans cousin who lives with her, and her non-binary best friend/significant other. As accustomed as I am to the use of ‘they’ as a singular pronoun, I found it a little bit confusing in the early scenes with Daisy, possibly because of the style of writing and the use of present tense, which made it slightly harder to follow. I imagine that those who have been less exposed to non-binary people and pronouns might find that a more significant problem, but until we as a society figure out how we’re going to deal with gender neutral pronouns, I’m not sure what anyone can do about that.

Ultimately, I felt the blurb possibly had a more detrimental effect on my enjoyment of the book than it should have done. While it was the reason I picked up the book in the first place, it was actually quite misleading, and led me to expect quite a different book from this one. In many ways, I might have enjoyed it more if I, like Ida, had been in the dark about the nature of her power, and had gradually discovered that throughout the book. Instead, I felt I was a little bit too far ahead of her, and therefore found myself somewhat impatient instead of intrigued.

So, conclusion: good book but ditch the blurb, it spoils things.

Rating: ***

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