When sixteen-year-old Lillie Hart meets the gorgeous and mysterious Tom Windsor-Smith for the first time, it’s like fireworks — for her, anyway. Tom looks as if he would be more interested in watching paint dry; as if he is bored by her and by her small Nebraskan town in general.
But as Lillie begins to break down the walls of his seemingly impenetrable exterior, she starts to suspect that he holds the answers to her reoccurring nightmares and to the impossible memories which keep bubbling to the surface of her mind — memories of the two of them, together and in love.
When she at last learns the truth about their connection, Lillie discovers that Tom has been hiding an earth-shattering secret; a secret that is bigger — and much more terrifying and beautiful — than the both of them. She also discovers that once you finally understand that the world is round, there is no way to make it flat again.
An epic and deeply original sci-fi romance, taking inspiration from Albert Einstein’s theories and the world-bending wonder of true love itself.
I’m not a maths head, I studied English Language and Literature for a reason; me and numbers, we’re not the best of friends. So reading the blurb for When the World Was Flat (and we were in love) was a bit of a mixed experience. It sounded really good and sometimes a good love story is just what the doctor ordered, but then I hit that final line and saw “…taking inspiration from Albert Einstein’s theories…” and my heart sank, because numbers, maths, physics… argh! But the first part sounded good enough, that I decided to work through the hard stuff if I had to, only to find out that the hard stuff wasn’t that hard after all and my Humanities-oriented mind could grok the science explained in the book fine.
The premise for the book, inspired by Albert Einstein’s unfinished Theory of Everything, was quite interesting. As mentioned, I suck at science and I’m totally unsure whether the science Jonach used is in any way, shape, or form correct, but I like what she did with it. In fact, I think she actually underutilised it somewhat. It’s hard to be more detailed than this, since only a bit of it would give the game away and I wouldn’t want to spoil the book for anyone. There is however a shadowy organisation called the Circle who controls those who call themselves the Evacuees, which is brought in to create tension and a sense of danger, but which I thought, could have played a far bigger part in the story. There also some plot holes, mainly the question why all of these Evacuees are showing up in small-town Green Grove simultaneously and also what is the mystery with Lillie’s dad? There’s no mention made of him, not even when Lillie is talking about her mum’s past.
I liked Lillie’s voice, as it was identifiably hers, but while she’s mostly sympathetic, she isn’t always very likeable. Lillie can be quite judgemental about people, such as her mum, her best friends, and the school’s queen bee Melissa. In fact, at some points in the book I liked Lillie’s friends better than I did Lillie. I especially found some of the scenes between Lillie, Jo, and Sylv, rather eyebrow-raising, as Lillie and Jo are rather critical of the way Sylv conducts herself and her manner of dress; they verge on the edge of slut-shaming. I actually rather liked Sylv and the way she flaunted what she had and wasn’t afraid of her own sexuality, even if she overdid it at times. The boys – because you didn’t think there was only one, did you? – are both just as much teenage heart throbs as they are teenage idiots, because they both do some stupid stuff. Jackson makes some really catastrophic mistakes, though he really does seem cut up about it, and Tom is just… complicated. He’s prince charming, but he’s also dangerous and his appearance is the thing that will change Lillie’s life forever and perhaps not in a good way on all fronts. But they do both seem to genuinely care for Lillie and Lillie seems to care for them. Lillie’s mum Deb is a hippie and she often has couch-surfers as house guests and while they are more of an annoyance to Lillie, I found them hilarious, especially as Deb picks up a new odd hobby every time they have a new guest. These house guests injected levity and light into an increasingly tense narrative.
Jonach’s play with memory and the way it works – the fact that no one remembers an event the same, that memories can overlap to create a completely new memory, that we experience deja-vu, and that sometimes our minds create memories out of whole-cloth – is interesting and adds a layer of seeming unreliability to Lillie’s point of view. In the first half of the book I was genuinely wondering whether Lillie was coming unravelled at the seams or whether there was something else at play. It’s this aspect of the book together with the development of the love story between Lillie and Tom that I loved best about the book. While there is somewhat of an insta-connection between Lillie and Tom, this time it’s an integral part of the plot and not just because. It’s hard to explain further why I liked these two so much, because spoilers, but let’s just say it’s a rocky road and a happy ending is never guaranteed.
When the World Was Flat (and we were in love) is a big title for a relatively slim volume. But it’s a fitting title for a story that takes a big idea and applies it in a way that re-examines memory, love, soul mates and parallel universes without knocking me out with complicated maths stuff. It’s a novel where insta-love isn’t just an annoying trope, it’s plausible and rather sweet. I had to think about the ending for quite a while, as I was not quite sure whether I liked it, but after due consideration, I think I really do like it as it is fitting and the only way for a happy end. It’s also an ending that takes guts as an author, as you know there will be dissatisfied readers when an ending plays out like this. When the World Was Flat (and we were in love) is by no means a perfect novel, but I really enjoyed it a lot. It also shows Jonach has a lot of talent and potential to grow in future books and I can’t wait to follow her writing in the future.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.