Which is why I don't spend a whole lot of time at the Thunderdome we call GoodReads.
I wrote the above right before I took my break from the interwebz. I was so disheartened by the GoodReads stuff—that A) there seemed to be so much deliberate misunderstanding going on, which B) suggested that people were using an understandable misstep on the author's part to put on their Furious Righteousness Faces rather than exercising some empathy, and worst of all, C) that the whole brouhaha was not remotely an uncommon occurrence—it was the rotten cherry on the top of my Winter Malaise sundae.
Anyway. So. Neverwas.
At the end of Amber House, heroine Sarah Parsons used the magic of the house and of her family to tweak time, saving her little brother and her long-lost aunt in the process.
But clearly, somewhere along the way, something went wrong... because history is completely different: it's the present day, but segregation is still the name of the game. Make sense?
Here's the wrinkle that'll make it especially tough for new readers: since Sarah changed history, she doesn't remember the adventure in Amber House: because for THIS version of Sarah, it never happened. And so this world, there is an American Confederacy of States, and that doesn't seem strange to her.
- Some people might see this as a Con, but big, big points to the authors for having enough confidence in their readers to avoid over-explaining. Sarah works with the information that she has—which isn't always accurate—and she doesn't magically Know That Something Is Wrong. She has moments of unease and she has some dreams, both of which are exacerbated by the fact that she's finding weird messages that seem to not only be connected, but meant specifically for her. In addition to working at solving a mystery that she doesn't even know exists, she has to fight against a lifetime of memories, as well as a lifetime of social conditioning: that's a lot of balls to keep in the air.
- Points for the subtle changes in the cast of characters: they're the same people, with the same core personalities, but they've lived their entire lives in a completely different world than in the first book. So of COURSE their worldviews will be different, as will their reactions to various stimuli. This was the aspect I appreciated the most, I think, because so often in stories like this, it's only the clothes or the slang that we see change. In Neverwas, we get the whole package.
- We get more of Nanga, and so she moves away from being purely a personification of the Magical Negro trope. Which was much appreciated.
- Relatedly, the Autism Makes You Magical thread is still here, but it's laid out in a way that I felt comfortable with: A) Sammy and Maggie were connected to the house in a much more direct way than Sarah has ever been, and B) they process things differently than Sarah does, so... pass? I'm still semi-undecided, though.
- The worldbuilding was thoughtful and complex, in that we see Big Obvious Changes as well as more subtle ones, and said changes don't exist in a vacuum: the political landscape of the entire world is different.
- Atmospheric, romantic, thoughtful, surprising, complex.
- I... can't think of any. It's certainly not a book I'd recommend to Every Single Reader, but it was a really good fit for me, and I'm very much looking forward to reading Book III. The end.
Book source: Review copy from the publisher.