When the World Was Flat (And we were in love), by Ingrid Jonach

Title: When the World Was Flat (And we were in love)
Author: Ingrid Jonach
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication date: 5th September 2013 (UK)
Rating (/。\)

WhenTheWorldWasFlat-144dpiI wanted to love When the World Was Flat (And We Were in Love), since it’s a romance book that isn’t actually a romance book. And I love romance, but I love difference more. There were aspects of the story that I did like, but there were just so many—too many—other aspects of the book that felt awkward and unfortunate.

Before I start the review-proper, I want to talk about the things I did like—which basically equates to the premise, and not much else. I loved the idea of alternate realities and a romantic YA science fiction novel. And I still want that story to exist, only, When the World Was Flat is not that story.

The idea of a love story through time and space reeled me in quickly and I couldn’t wait to start the journey of Lillie and Tom. I wanted to start finding out his secrets and why Lillie remembers them in love. I wanted something wonderful and different… and I don’t think I got it. The science fiction element is tossed in towards what feels like the final third of the book, with not much really having happened at the beginning or in the dragging middle.

(Bah! Never fun to write a bad review, feel like I’m kicking someone’s kitten.)

I did not like how the characters were presented and through the voice of the narrator it felt as though several negative things were expressed. The characters appeared to be cut-out examples of particular things that Jonach wanted to express. These things didn’t feel like part of the story itself; they were instead, almost neon-limned opinions. I doubt this was intentional, but the effect is still the same.

Somehow none of the characters were good people, except Lillie, of course; at least that’s how it was presented. Only, I didn’t like Lillie one bit.

I feel that sympathy for Lillie is supposed to be garnered, but I just didn’t get it. Lillie was not a likeable character, whether it’s by being judgemental towards everyone in her life (slut-shaming Sylv through both Lillie’s inner narrative and the constant [supposedly playful, but nevertheless incessant] dialogue between the apparent best friends).

Lillie is generally supposed to be a social outcast, but when she is passively offensive towards pretty much everyone, whether to their faces (always subtly), or in her personal narrative, it doesn’t surprise me. In her art class she is passively/inwardly derogatory towards the class geek and the class Goth for no reason whatsoever, besides the fact that they are a Goth and a manga nerd. Grow up, Lillie.  After this, Lillie seemed very judgemental and unlikeable. Honestly, she is uppity and condescending and completely unaccepting of anything outside her own sphere. It seems that nobody is good enough for Lillie, including her own mother.

I did like the fact that Lillie’s mother was different and that their relationship is clearly dysfunctional in a way I’ve not read before. I’m a big fan of a focus upon parental relationships, especially when they are less than perfect and there’s no veneer of “the parent is always right”. This is something I did actually enjoy. I actually liked Lillie’s mother more than I liked her. She seemed so much more human and likeable despite her obvious flakiness and awkward parenting skills. But there’s no manual on being a parent and since we’re not really given much of a background insight into their relationship, with how Deb tries to involve herself in her daughter’s life, yet gives her the space she wants, Lillie simply comes across as difficult on purpose and mean. We needed to know why their relationship is so dysfunctional.

Furthermore, I found it awkward that the larger girl, when she is (without spoiling too much) no longer “herself”, suddenly makes an effort to lose weight and dress better, cutting her hair and wearing different clothes, even trying modelling. So. Given that we’re working with alternative realities and different versions of the same person through time and space, it’s completely unrealistic that another Jo from another reality might have been content to not lose weight and not undergo a makeover? Hmm. Didn’t like that. Another change could have been demonstrated that didn’t basically involve becoming closer to the supposed “feminine ideal”. Basically, hotter, prettier, slimmer.

And again, Lillie is a terrible friend (and just because it’s mostly inside doesn’t matter), being negative regarding Jo’s Gothic-styled transformation. What is the problem with goths and emos and alternative fashion or geeks and manga nerds? I don’t know, but clearly Lillie has one and like I said before, it felt awkward, offensive and more attached to the writer than the character, because Lillie’s narrative is so flat and lacking in any depth whatsoever.

I wish it wasn’t, and I wish it didn’t feel like all the slut-shaming of Sylv and the condescension towards everyone who isn’t Tom felt justified and all part of who Lillie is—but it doesn’t.

I was hesitant at first to call Sylv’s treatment “slut-shaming”, but then I looked into the term, read a bit, and decided that it fitted. I still feel awkward attaching such a harsh term, but there you go. I felt sorry for Sylv and didn’t find her behaviour inappropriate: in fact, she is in charge of herself and her body, uses protection, and knows when enough is enough. She is comfortable with herself and her sexuality and is sexually curious. Well thank you for expressing a teenager who fits that very description… and aw crap, to the fact that she seemed to be cast in a bad light.

Just let Sylv be Sylv—she will anyway.

Bah, again.

Essentially this book frustrated me; I’ve never highlighted so many things in a book before, all negative passages to read aloud to my brother to get his opinion. I highlighted a lot. I did not like this book: it felt like a random waste of time with no point whatsoever, no real plot and a half-hashed science fiction element just to make a rather obvious instalove story more interesting. The Einstein theories and gloriously science-fiction platform upon which the book could have rested was little more than a crumbling precipice that hovered over a dark chasm of filled with the pages of each and every instalove, stereotype-filled, boring heroine YA book ever.

I feel terrible, but I kind of hated this book. m(_ _)m


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