In this YA paranormal romance, a teenage girl tries to escape a recurring, five-day time loop that always ends with her boyfriend’s murder.
Grace Freeman, 17, of the town of Boone, Georgia, has died 41 times and woken up 42. On each occasion, she’s found herself in a different timeline—or perhaps an alternate universe—with many altered details. For example, sometimes her twin brother, Jem, is alive, sometimes not. After waking from each “Fall,” as she terms it, Grace has five disorienting days before she and her boyfriend, Ander Hale, are chased down by another teenager, Finn. These three alone recognize the pattern, and no matter how the couple tries to avoid it, Finn always ends up killing Ander. Despite their pleas, all Finn says is “We all have to pay for what we did”—whatever that means. Before the first Fall, Grace, Jem, and Ander had been an inseparable trio since childhood, but their closeness was threatened by a few problems: Ander’s drinking, which was worrisomely like his father’s; Grace’s possible acceptance at Alton Preparatory for her senior year, which would have taken her away from Boone; and Finn’s irresistible beauty and arrogance. But on this 42nd wake-up, something’s different: Ander doesn’t remember what’s happening, and other strange things make Grace question her sanity. She has only days to prevent Ander’s murder, stop Finn, and—she hopes—stop Falling. Bernard (Trust Me, 2017, etc.) writes capably from Grace’s overheated, first-person perspective, using highly somatized emotions to prove the heroine’s turmoil: knotted stomach, crawling skin, chills, a tight chest, nausea, clenched teeth. Although the stressful situation (and a final twist) help to justify it, the adolescent melodrama can sometimes feel over the top: a high school breakup means “We were ruined”; news from Alton makes Grace feel “like I was going to shiver into a thousand pieces.” The love triangle plotline is also nothing new, nor are Grace’s fairly standard failings, such as shyness, clumsiness, and an inability to believe that the cute boy likes her. Still, the characterization is thoughtful throughout, and Bernard makes good use of setting to help ground the story.
Suspenseful and romantic, if often overwrought.