In this YA sci-fi novel, everyone must choose a personal destiny after examining three options—but a young woman pursues free will.
A few generations from now, the world is happier and less destructive. An implanted microchip, explains narrator Cassia Bellerose, “tracks our response to every decision we’ve ever made, and stores that data until we go to the Trivium at eighteen years old.” At the Trivium, everyone is presented three possible futures that are the consequences of decisions made so far and must select one. Because no one remembers the Trivium experience, it’s something of a mystery, and Cassia—almost 18 and in her last week of high school—wonders whether it’s possible to change one’s fate. But she’s an organized planner and likes predictability; she wants to become a doctor and marry her boyfriend, Gunner. Lately, though, Cassia’s been having vivid dreams of a brown-haired boy; in one, they share a hammock, reading books. When she runs into the boy of her dreams, Ethan Rivers, they share an instant connection—and it turns out he’s been having the same dreams. Something odd happens at their Triviums, and though their paths diverge, Cassia and Ethan could solve the puzzle of their separation (the girl’s mother has a secret that could help) and find a way to change fate. In her novel, Nguyen (From Start to Fiction, 2018) offers an intelligent bookworm heroine whose love of Jane Austen will likely strike a chord in readers. The science part of the fiction, involving string theory and a rift in space-time, gets a somewhat reasonable explanation, though how the Trivium provides not just possible but guaranteed futures is murky. The puzzle aspect lends some interest, important because beneath the window dressing, the story rests on that stale plot device, a love triangle. There’s little suspense about Cassia’s choice: Gunner is “my friend. Ethan lights a fire inside me I never want to quench.” The work seems rather adolescent in its ideas about the world, illustrated by Cassia’s amazing, near-instant success as a writer.
A futuristic tale with some capable writing but only surface sophistication.