In Bishara’s debut novel, a portal to parallel universes offers a tempting escape to a teenager unhappy with a recent family move.
Ruby has been miserable ever since her father’s sudden remarriage swept her away from the life she loved in Northern California and dumped her in rural Ohio. But small-town Ennis has its share of surprises, as Ruby soon discovers that an ancient oak tree behind her new home conceals a wormhole. Each turn of the steering wheel inside the tree (it glows purple) transports her to alternate realities—worlds where her long-dead mother is alive and her best friend, George, is her lover. Alas, the superficiality of Bishara’s worldbuilding mutes the resonance of Ruby’s emotional journey as she learns what could have been. Parallel universes are theoretically infinite, but Ruby’s tree conveniently limits her to a mere 10. A genius scientist hides his secrets behind a childishly simple substitution cipher. Ruby, a science geek, has the Einstein tensor equation tattooed on her neck and a tendency to pepper her first-person, present-tense narration with scientific terminology—but she can’t solve that basic cipher until the plot provides her with the key.
This tidy “what if?” adventure isn’t clever enough to go to the head of the debut class. (Science fiction. 14-18)