Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Review Copy from Edelweiss
High school senior Jonathan Aubrey creates worlds at will. In Kylie-Simms-is-my-girlfriend, he’s given himself everything he doesn’t have in real life-–the track team, passing grades, and his dream girl–-until one day he confuses his worlds and almost kisses the real Kylie Simms. Now his girlfriend Kylie and the real Kylie are changing, and Jonathan must solve the mystery of his own life to save his love from a gruesome fate.
After recovering from a coma as a child, caused by a tragic accident in which Jonathan lost his mother, father and sister, he has been wanted to disappear and had dreamed about a life in a world where he is not scarred, pitied and a social outcast. Fortunately for Jonathan, since the tragic accident, he has been able to do just that. Jonathan is a world-maker, an individual who can create and inhabit alternative worlds, worlds in which he can have what he wants, what he cannot get from the real world. First, his worlds where ones in which he was the leader in missions against aliens, worlds where he was the leader and looked up to by other children. During his sophomore year, he created 'Kylie-Simms-is-my-girlfriend', a world exactly like his own in outlook, but different in ways that really matter to him – he is popular, part of the track team, on his way to college and most importantly, loved by Kylie Simms, the most beautiful girl he has ever seen.
After juggling between the alternative world and his real world for years, Jonathan makes a mistake that spirals out of control – he confuses the worlds and tries to kiss the real Kylie Simms, the Kylie that has not shown any interest towards Jonathan, the Kylie that has not even acknowledged his existence before. As a result of this mishap, the real Kylie starts to feel things that she never expected to feel and very quickly gets obsessed with Jonathan without knowing why. In Kylie-Simms-is my-girlfriend, Jonathan's fantasy world, Kylie starts to feel differently about Johathan and though she still loves him (mostly because Jonathan created her to do so), she finds it difficult to be around him. Jonathan is starting to lose control of these two worlds and the only way he can try to gain the control back is to bring the worlds and the two Kylies together.
The concept of In A World Just Right is quite different from anything I have come across before. Though these are several YA novels that play around with two different realities, I have never seen it being done quite this way and with so much detail. Jen Brooks's world building is masterfully done and the world-maker aspect of the novel is extremely well established. Though this novel can definitely be categorized as fantasy, to me it read more like a contemporary novel – the fantastical element is established so well that very quickly, I just started to accept it as reality.
What I really loved about this novel is the fact that instead of making the two realities very different, Brooks decided to portrayed them as very similar and gave me, as a reader, a chance to find the little differences between them. I feel like my role as a reader was almost like one of an investigator trying to find the little things that made these two realities different. This similarity of the worlds and the fact that Jonathan has created a world that is almost like his, inhabit by the same people than his real world, instead of a world in which he is for example rich and famous, emphasizes the fact that in order to be happy, you don't necessarily need big changes. For Jonathan, happiness means that he is not invisible and that he is loved by someone – the ingredients for happiness identified universally by the humankind. But as he creates this happiness himself, he fails to see that with a little effort, he could get the same from the real world.
I feel like usually when it comes to YA novels, I am somewhat able to figure out the twists and turns while reading towards the conclusion. This in one way means that I think all YA is predictable – it just means that as an avid reader of the genre, I have started to notice generic conventions, as a result of which I very rearly am completely surprised about the twists and turns that take place. While reading this book, I kept making predictions about what would happen, but I must admit that none of them ended up being right. Some insane things take place and most of them came to me out of the blue. Since this book is so unique in concept, I never quite new what to expect, and I say that it was really refreshing, but also kind of unnerving, to read a book that did not really fit into any of those generic conventions I usually look for while reading YA.
I always find it a bit difficult to read novels, especially YA ones, narrated entirely from the point of view of a male character. It took me a little time to get used to Jonathan's narrative voice and throughout I felt like I cannot fully trust him since it seems like he does not himself even realize the extent of his world-making powers. Since I love unrelatable narrators, I very quickly got into Jonathan's narrative voice and wanted to know more, wanted to find signs of what is actually true. Brooks excels in making Jonathan problematic, especially in relation to the way in which he treats the Kylies, but also treats him with sympathy, making sure the reader understands why Jonathan has made such decisions. As the novel processed, I started to feel for Jonathan more and more, and though I never really fell in love with him, I understood him.
Jen Brooks's prose is incredible – the voice she gives to Jonathan is intelligent and funny, and the detail she has put into this novel blew me away. Brooks writes with confidence and bravado – she's an experienced world-maker, careful in her draft, full of surprises and promise.