When the world was flat (And we were in love) by Ingrid Jonach

(9.0/10) It was charming, it had heart, it had cool science fiction.

Book of the Year 2013 (see all)

When the world was flat (and we were in love) is first YA novel from Australian author Ingrid Jonach. It is a love story, told in a similar vein to The Time Traveller's Wife, but with science fiction elements similar to Bioshock: Infinite and Sliders. And it is one of the better love stories I have read in the last few years, especially in the fantasy / science fiction genre.

The story follows Lillie, a sixteen year old girl who has started to dream, among other things, about being murdered. These dreams are not limited to sleep, with day dreams continuing to haunt her at school, and at work. It all seems to trace back to one moment - the day Tom Windsor-Smith came to town. There is some sort of connection between the two of them, and the closer they get to figuring it out, the more dangerous their lives become.

Lillie plays an almost typical high school girl. She isn't 'in' with the popular crowd, but she has enough of her own friends that I wouldn't really consider her an outcast either (which is a refreshing change from most recent YA). She is brave, she is driven, she is a little bit snarky, and I think she has a great attitude. Tom on the other hand gets the stereotypical YA love interest treatment. He is dark, brooding and mysterious, all the popular girls want to be with him, but he has eyes only for our young heroine. That is a little unfair though, and once we get to know Tom, I found I liked him a whole lot more. The mutual attraction between the two main characters turns into a very believable mutual affection, and I was very satisfied with the way in which their relationship progressed. There are plenty of other cool characters in this story too, from the quirky mother to the quirky best friends and a high school queen bee who needs to be brought down a few pegs.

One of the other aspects I really enjoyed about this story was the science fiction. Jonach plays with the idea of the infinite universe, retaining a lot of the classical explanation but giving it enough of a twist to make it her own. The way it manifests is very subtle during the early parts of the book - if you are reading very carefully and know what to look for you might be able to figure out a few things on your own - but its not until you get past the halfway point that the science fiction becomes more overt and a primary driver towards the story conclusion. While I wish the science fiction aspects had been more prominent earlier in the book, I don't think it harmed the story in any way, and on the plus side there are plenty of subtle hints to discover if you want to re-read the story.

When the world was flat (And we were in love) is one of the best YA stories I've read this year. It was charming, it had heart, it had cool science fiction, and it made me feel stuff on the inside. Regular readers of YA will love this book, while I think there is plenty for casual and non-readers of YA too.

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