High school senior Sabine has two lives: In her Roxbury life, her family is lower middle class, she has a sweetheart of a little sister, she hangs out in record shops and exudes tough-girl attitude; in her Wellesley life, her family is affluent, she has two jerk older brothers, she and her boyfriend, Dex, are the It Couple on campus, and she’s been accepted to Harvard.
Her two lives aren’t metaphorical, paranormal, the result of some bizarre separated-at-birth twin mind meld, or a symptom of mental illness. For her entire life, she has literally lived two lives: Every night at midnight, she shifts over to her other life. She lives every single day twice. And despite some perks—double the schooling means some pretty great grades—she’s tired of it. She’s tired of the constant lying, of never changing her appearance in order to avoid unanswerable questions, of feeling untethered and alone—I have two lives and yet I’m a ghost—and she’s REALLY tired of having her period for twice as long as anyone else. When she breaks a bone in Roxbury and the injury doesn’t transfer over, she starts to formulate a plan: If she dies in one life, it seems likely that she’ll live on in the other.
Despite a few quibbles—some minor, one decidedly less so—I had a really hard time putting Jessica Shirvington’s One Past Midnight down.
Strengths!: Shirvington clearly put a lot of time and thought into the mechanics of the world. Every time I had a question—has Sabine ever tried to find her other self? Is she two people in one world, or living in two different timelines? What’s the best place to hide a key when you’ve been committed to a psych ward?—she answered it, and then proceeded to answer three more that even I, in my infinite nitpickery, hadn’t thought of. Along related lines, she also clearly put a lot of thought into how living like that would affect Sabine’s worldview and philosophy. It makes sense, for instance, that she wouldn’t find the idea of reincarnation to be at all appealing: ...a sick flick of the switch and we start over.
Quibbles!: The book takes place in Massachusetts, but the narration occasionally sounds more British English than American English: Miriam looked at me like I was mad. While the detailed descriptions of clothing serve to make Sabine’s two worlds more distinctly different, in a few years, they’re going to feel pretty dated (especially the off-shoulder top). And there is some repetitive language, especially in regards to the “silk sheets” in her Wellesley life. None of these is a dealbreaker, but all are worth a mention.
Larger Issue!: The romance. It has sparks, it has heat, but is one that is more problematic the more than you consider it. Sabine finds True Love with Ethan, her night nurse in Roxbury, a guy who has been tasked with psychoanalyzing her. The inequality of power in the relationship just squicked me right out, and ultimately, one of the reveals at the end undermined the believability of the entire situation. Also! ANOTHER reveal at the end turns Ethan into an Agent of Change and Growth for Sabine, rather than a three-dimensional person. That same reveal leads Sabine right into Melodrama Land, and so that whole arc ends up feeling manipulative (yes, despite feeling manipulated, I got weepy, but I’m a sap.) Much of this issue is subjective, though, so reactions are likely to vary from reader to reader.
Overall, a win!
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or running the show at her local library, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while rewatching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.